Winter berries such as yaupon are ripe this time of year. American robins and cedar waxwings know. They can be seen and heard in the hundreds flying overhead searching out these juicy morsels.
A fully covered berry bush one day may be completely stripped the next by a visit from one of these flocks.
Cedar waxwings can be detected by their cardinal shaped body, but in a brown uniform. One of our most handsome birds, their black mask and yellow tail tip sets them apart.
The waxwing name is derived from the feather shafts on the secondary wings of some adult birds which exude a bright red waxy substance. The function of the wax is not clearly known.
Waxwings are fun to watch as they line up side by side on a branch loaded with berries. One bird will chose a berry and pass it down the line. Eventually a bird will eat it at which time the ceremony begins again. Which bird in line will chose the morsel is a mystery. They remain respectful of each other as they do not bicker over food as many other flocking birds do.
Waxwings, like goldfinches, are one of our latest migrants. They will remain in the area until berries and small fruits are available further north.
American robins on the other hand change their diet depending on the time of year. In spring and summer they feed primarily on the ground while pursuing earthworms and insects. At this time of year their principal food source is berries and other fruits.
Some wintering robins will be heading north while others will stay in the area to nest.
Sometimes robins and waxwings find fruits and berries that have started to ferment. As they gorge on this food, they can become inebriated and thereby vulnerable to predators.