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Highbush Cranberry

Bohemian Waxwings Headed Northwest To Breeding Grounds

3-15-19 bohemian waxwing dropping crab apple_U1A5117Northern New England and, to a lesser extent, southern New England, are visited by Bohemian Waxwings most winters. This nomadic bird often occurs in large single-species flocks, but sometimes mixes with Cedar Waxwings and/or American Robins. These flocks, varying in size from a few individuals to several hundred, and even a few thousand, range widely during migration and winter. Their dietary preference in the winter for sugary fruits makes crab apple and mountain ash trees (and the ground underneath them) as well as highbush cranberry bushes likely locations to spot them.

Most Bohemian Waxwings begin their migration to their breeding grounds in Alaska and the boreal forests of western Canada in March. Like its close relative, the Cedar Waxwing, it breeds late compared to most birds. Eggs are not laid until mid-June, presumedly in order to time the fledging of their young with the ripening fruits of summer.

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Nest Box Residents : Out With The Old, In With the New

3-25-16  mouse nest in bluebird box by Jim LafleyDSC00362 (2)In order to prevent disease or the passing on of parasites, it is a good idea to clean out nest boxes after they’ve been occupied.  In the fall, after the last brood of eastern bluebirds or tree swallows has flown the coop, many nest box owners often clean them out in preparation for the next summer’s residents, but some wait until spring.  This habit of waiting provides white-footed and deer mice (and occasionally flying squirrels) with a ready-made winter shelter and/or larder.

Feathers incorporated into the pictured grass nest indicate that tree swallows once occupied this nest box.  After the last of the avian nestlings had fledged, mice moved into the box.  After constructing a roof over the nest, the mice succeeded in renovating the former bird nursery into a winter mouse house.  The remaining space inside the box served as a larder for nearby high-bush cranberries.

Unfortunately for the mice, but fortunately for the swallows or bluebirds that will reside here this summer, the responsible nest box owner dutifully cleaned out the nest box this spring, in accordance with avian-mammalian timeshare policies.  (Thanks to Jim Lafley for the use of his photo.)

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Cedar Waxwings Turn to Highbush Cranberry As a Last Resort

3-28-14 cedar waxwing 159The primary food of Cedar Waxwings is fleshy fruits that have a high sugar content. Because these birds rely on ripening fruit to feed their nestlings, they are among the latest birds to nest in the Northeast. During the winter they tend to be nomadic, wandering from one sugary fruit supply to another. In the past, juniper berries have dominated their winter diet, but waxwings are increasingly turning to ornamentals such as non-native honeysuckle. (Occasionally waxwings with orange, not yellow, terminal tail bands are seen; this change in color has been attributed to their change in diet.) The fruit of Highbush Cranberry, being consumed in this photograph, is quite acidic and has a low sugar content. It is eaten by most songbirds, including Cedar Waxwings, only towards the end of winter, when sweeter fruit is in short supply.

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