The cedar waxwing is a non-territorial (3), highly social species which forms large flocks (2) (3) (4) of up to several hundred individuals (8).
The migratory patterns of the cedar waxwing are not fully understood, but it is known to move southwards in the winter, and there are generally two surges of migrations to breeding grounds in the spring (3). The breeding season of the cedar waxwing occurs much later in the year than in most other bird species, and it is thought to coincide with the seasonal availability of summer-ripening fruits (3) (4).
The cedar waxwing performs a courtship dance, also known as courtship-hopping (3), which involves the pair passing a small item, usually food, between themselves, and hopping away from and back towards each other (2) (3). Pairs of cedar waxwings are thought to remain monogamous throughout the breeding season (3) (4), and will produce one or two broods per season (2) (3).
Once a pair bond has formed, the birds begin nest-building, although most of this is carried out by the female (2) (3). The nest is usually located in the fork of a horizontal branch (2) (3) (4), and is built from twigs, grasses, string and other materials (2) (3) (4) (8). The bulky, cup-like nest (2) (3) is lined with softer materials including fine roots, pine needles (2) (4), hair and moss (3), and is often adorned with fruiting grasses and catkins (2) (3). The construction of the nest can take 5 or 6 days to complete, and may require more than 2,500 individual trips to the nest (2).
A cedar waxwing clutch typically consists of 4 or 5 eggs (3) (4) (8) (9) which are incubated for a period of 12 to 14 days (3) (4) (9). Only the female cedar waxwing incubates the eggs, and is fed by the male while doing so (3) (4).
The smooth, glossy eggs are grey or bluish-grey with a light, irregular pattern of brown spots and darker grey blotches (2) (3) (4) (8).
Cedar waxwing chicks are born naked, blind and helpless (2) (3). They are fed by both the male and female (3) (4), which provide the chicks with insects for the first two days and regurgitated berries thereafter (4). Young cedar waxwings fledge between 14 and 18 days of age (9).
Adult cedar waxwings feed primarily on sugary fruits for most of the year (3) (10), including elderberries, cedar berries (2) (6), wild cherries (4) and mulberries (2) (3) (4). This species swallows berries whole (2), and a flock can strip a berry-laden tree bare within a matter of hours (7) (8).
Cedar waxwings are known to become intoxicated when they feed on overripe, fermenting fruits (2) (4), which can lead to the death of the individual (2).
In the summer, the cedar waxwing also eats protein-rich insects (2) (3) (7) such as mayflies, dragonflies and stoneflies (2) (3), which are either picked off vegetation or captured on the wing while flying over streams and ponds (2) (3) (4).