It surely must be acknowledged that Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) is one of the most attractive species found across a broad swath of North America.
Furthermore, it is resident in many areas, and in southern Ontario provides enjoyment to our lives the whole year long.
It is relatively common and not especially difficult to find, especially when fruiting trees and shrubs are laden with berries. As is often the case, if one locates the food source, the bird is sure to follow.
While principally frugivorous, it can often be seen flycatching, demonstrating great skill in capturing prey in this fashion.
Sometimes birds can be seen passing berries from one to the other in what seems to be a game. They are gregarious birds and to our anthropocentric eyes appear to enjoy each other's company. It is seldom that one sees a lone bird, and I suspect that even then it quickly rejoins its flock.
It is noteworthy that Cedar Waxwings are capable of ingesting fruits that would be toxic to mammals, including humans, without ill effects.
From The Auk, Vol. 116 No. 3 July 1999:
Cyanogenic glycosides are common secondary compounds in ripe fruits that are dispersed by birds. These substances are toxic to some mammals. The repellent effect of amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside on Cedar Waxwings did not reduce food ingestion, even at relatively high concentrations. In addition these birds did not exhibit preference for amygdalin-free over amygdalin-containing fruit. Cedar Waxwings ingested the equivalent of 5.5 times the lethal dose for rats in 4h without exhibiting any external signs of toxicity. The presence of large amounts of unhydrolyzed amygdalin in the excreta of waxwings fed on amygdalin-laced food confirmed that amygdalin was excreted intact.
It is quite enough for most of us to simply appreciate the beauty of the bird, and to enjoy its companionship on a pleasant walk in the woods.
But perhaps once in a while it is good to reflect on the marvelous adaptations of this splendid bird in its feeding habits, and perhaps to appreciate it even more.