Beak of the Week: Cedar Waxwings Are Berry-Guzzling Drunkards


The Chronicle’s July 1 Beak of the Week is the colorful cedar waxwing. This species earns its name from the waxy, red feather tips visible in the accompanying photo. However, if you never saw it fly, it would be easy to think these fellows were complete wax figurines. Their smooth, flawless plumage and subtle ombre coloring make them quite a sight. 

They don’t keep still for long, though. These birds can join flocks in the hundreds, guzzling berries throughout the year by swallowing them whole.

According to the Cornell Bird Lab, their obsession with berries can be their downfall. Some overripe fruits that begin to ferment will produce alcohol, which can harm or kill the waxwings. Sometimes, they just get intoxicated. 

While most birds can’t sustain a diet without protein, cedar waxwings can live on only fruit for months at a time, the lab states on its website.