Thursday, March 5, 2015

Waxwing Courtship @ Armand Bayou

If people ask me about Cedar Waxwings, I have a reliable answer:  “I just love those party birds!”

I think of them as party birds due to their Mardi-Gras-type facial mask and their feathered cap.  But MOSTLY I think of them as party birds because of their winter BEHAVIOR.

Cedar Waxwings fly in loose, fluid groups, suddenly dropping into backyards or wooded areas, seeking ripe berries such as the Yaupon Holly.  I usually hear them, before I see them.  These party birds are gregarious and noisy with that insect-like rhythmic voice.  They drop in, eat every berry in sight, and then head out to take their party to the next red-berried buffet. 

If I were a restaurant entrepreneur, I’d open “The Red Berry Café” and put a Cedar Waxwing on my signature sign.  And certainly my café would include alcoholic beverages.  I’ve witnessed multiple Cedar Waxwings stuff themselves on overly-ripe berries and attempt fly-away with a bit of a drunken unsteadiness.  Yes, these beauties are dressed for party—and they know how to party!

And so this past Saturday’s sunless, wooded walk at Armand Bayou Nature Center found me standing still in poor-lit conditions, watching lots and lots of American Robins move through the woods.  And then I heard the insect-like bugle of Waxwings arriving!

But this sighting of Cedar Waxwings brought me a surprise:  it was March after all, and I was gifted a quiet corner to watch the courtship behavior of two very affectionate Waxwings.  These two had left the party, and were all “into each other” as teenage humans might say.

Mother Nature created the Feathered Ones, and we humans, with remarkable similarities in all kinds of behavior:  both the good and the bad.  But these similarities are striking when it comes to courtship.  Bird courtship frequently involves singing, displays, dancing, preening, building and feeding.  Sounds rather human, doesn’t it? 

I’m guessing most of us have watched (or performed) some form of public display of affection that included being fed a bite or two of some scrumptious desert at a restaurant, romantic environment or not. 

Now I want to gently remind you that Saturday was an extremely overcast day.  The kind of day that photographers, better than I, know to leave their camera gear at home as no high-quality “technical” photos will be captured.

And so this was the poor quality of my Cedar Waxwing photos:

But I find these overcast days wonderful for catching bird behavior.  No sun; no reflection bouncing off my big hat; no notice of me.  I can stand in shadow, very still and quiet, and become something like a parent behind the wheel, driving their teenager’s car-pooling friends.  I love the stories of what these parents hear, as the teenagers seem to forget that there is a parent in the car--with listening skills and capacity to hold their tongue (until back home with teenage offspring).

And so with the help of Photoshop Elements, I was thrilled with these poor quality photos that caught that tender moment of courtship.

 The probable female, watching the probable male gather berries nearby:

The probable male, slowly, gently feeding his lovely:

And I was especially touched with the male staying by her side, watching her, until all berries were swallowed.

Oh to be young, in love, and in a restaurant with that special other, wanting to court and spark.

1 comment:

  1. There is something so special about Cedar waxwings, and I felt such joy reading about this and seeing their photos! Thanks!


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