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Number of species: 72

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Cedar Waxwing - Bombycilla cedrorum

For many species, it is better to determine age before sex, but for Cedar Waxwing the opposite is often more helpful, except for juveniles which can retain distinctive plumage as late as November.  The extent of the chin/throat patch, width of the terminal tail band, and number of waxy tips can usually be combined to determine sex, but many individuals are not reliably aged, especially by spring/summer.

Quick Tips:

  • Consider the overall plumage - juveniles have a whitish chin and distinct dark streaking on the underparts, whereas all older individuals have a blackish to black chin and lack streaks below.
  • Look at the chin and throat - except for juveniles, this area is extensively black on males, while on females the black is restricted to the chin.
  • Count the number of secondaries with waxy tips - individuals with zero waxy tips are almost always HY/SY birds; females with more than 3 waxy tips and males with more than 7 waxy tips are generally AHY/ASY; intermediate counts are inconclusive, but on average HY/SY individuals have far fewer waxy tips.
  • Estimate the width of the terminal band on the tail - it is broadest (5-9 mm) on AHY/ASY males, intermediate (3-7 mm) on HY/SY males and AHY/ASY females, and narrowest (1-4.5 mm) on HY/SY females, but there is a fair amount of overlap.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Juvenile / Unknown
Streaked breast; limited facial mask; males occasionally separable by large number of waxy tips and/or broad terminal band on tail; iris grayish.
Thumbnail - MG2-9901-10001-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3804.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-9901-10001-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3802.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-9901-10001-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3803.jpg
Hatch year / Male
Blackish chin patch extending into throat; relatively broad yellow terminal band on tail; usually zero to few secondaries with waxy tips, but up to 7 in some cases; iris grayish-brown to reddish-brown.
Thumbnail - MG2-1541-17255-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3795.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1541-17255-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3793.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1541-17255-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3794.jpg
After hatch year / Female
Blackish chin; relatively broad yellow terminal band on tail; relatively large number of secondaries with waxy tips (1-7); iris reddish.
Thumbnail - MG2-2341-58890-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3813.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2341-58890-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3811.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2341-58890-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3812.jpg
Second year / Male
Blackish chin patch extending into throat; relatively broad yellow terminal band on tail; usually zero to few secondaries with waxy tips, but up to 7 in some cases; iris grayish-brown to reddish.
Thumbnail - MG2-2291-32401-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3819.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2291-32401-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3817.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2291-32401-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3818.jpg
Second year / Female
Dull blackish chin; relatively narrow yellow terminal band on tail; usually zero or at most a few secondaries with waxy tips; iris grayish-brown to reddish.
Thumbnail - MG2-2541-73948-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3825.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2541-73948-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3823.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2541-73948-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3824.jpg
After second year / Male
Black chin patch extending into throat; broad yellow terminal band on tail; large number of secondaries with waxy tips (3-9); iris reddish.
Thumbnail - MG2-2291-32405-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3831.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2291-32405-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3829.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2291-32405-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3830.jpg

Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91801-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3834.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91801-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3832.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91801-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3833.jpg
After second year / Female
Blackish chin; relatively broad yellow terminal band on tail; relatively large number of secondaries with waxy tips (1-7); iris reddish.
Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91804-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3840.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91804-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3838.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2241-91804-Bombycilla_cedrorum_AOU_7_52-3839.jpg

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Hatch year / Female Dull blackish chin; relatively narrow yellow terminal band on tail; usually zero or at most a few secondaries with waxy tips; iris grayish-brown to reddish-brown.
After hatch year / Male Black chin patch extending into throat; broad yellow terminal band on tail; large number of secondaries with waxy tips (3-9); iris reddish.
Number of species: 72

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