- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant throughout the state and a regular winter visitor. The Cedar Waxwing was a common species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
Distributed across southern Canada and the northern half of the United States, the Cedar Waxwing reaches its highest breeding densities in the northeastern United States and in southeastern Canada, occurring from the Great Lakes region to the Maritime Provinces and in scattered small pockets in the Pacific Northwest (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 7/20 by Partners in Flight.
Considered a short-distance migrant, but winter movements are quite irregular, responding largely to availability of berries and fruits.
Fleshy fruits and insects taken by foliage gleaning and fly-catching.
Open-cup nest placed in a deciduous or coniferous tree or shrub generally 2 to 15 m high.
In the early 1900s, Roberts (1932) considered the Cedar Waxwing a common summer resident throughout the state, noting it was “most abundant in the northern coniferous forests, where it is at home both on the uplands and in the spruce and tamarack swamps.” Confirmed nesting records (nests with eggs or young) were available from 13 counties across the state, ranging from Jackson and Goodhue Counties in southern Minnesota; to Anoka, Hennepin, and Sherburne Counties in east-central Minnesota; and north to numerous counties that span the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Province and northern forest regions. Given that the species is often characterized as a late-nesting species that times the hatching of its young with the availability of summer berries, Roberts made a special effort to note two particularly early nesting efforts: a June 10, 1888, record in Minneapolis and a June 8, 1919, record in Crookston in far northwestern Minnesota.
Forty years later, Green and Janssen (1975) described the Cedar Waxwing as a resident in the forested regions of the state, but they were uncertain about its status in the western grasslands and agricultural counties. Although flocks of birds were observed in the region during the summer months, only two breeding records were confirmed south of the Minnesota River: Roberts’s reported 1898 record from Jackson County and a more recent 1948 record from Lac qui Parle County. Yet only a few years later, Janssen (1987) would describe the species as not only numerous in the forests and open woodlands of eastern, central, and northwestern Minnesota but most numerous in the northwestern, east-central, and southwestern regions of the state. It remained quite rare, he commented, in west-central and southeastern Minnesota. Janssen also delineated 31 counties where nesting had been confirmed since 1970, most of which were located in northern and east-central Minnesota. By 1998, Hertzel and Janssen would add an additional 13 counties to the list.
As of 2014, Minnesota Biological Survey field biologists documented a total of 928 Cedar Waxwing breeding season locations. The majority of records were in northern counties, but the species was well distributed in counties south of the Minnesota River (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
Over the five-year period covering the MNBBA, participants reported 3,277 Cedar Waxwing detections from 44.7% (2,127/4,761) of the surveyed atlas blocks and from 57.6% (1,345/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding was confirmed in 249 blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). The birds were reported in all 87 Minnesota counties and were confirmed breeding in 67 counties; 3 counties were added because of blocks that straddled 2 counties (Lac qui Parle, Morrison, and Stearns). Of the 20 counties where nesting was not confirmed, 11 were located in southern Minnesota, south of a line between the Twin Cities and Lac qui Parle County; most of those counties were in the southwestern corner of the state.
Clearly, in the nearly one hundred years since Roberts (1932) first wrote his account of the species’ status, the Cedar Waxwing has become well established in towns and cities across the state. Although the species remains abundant in the northern forest, it is well distributed in the open woodlands that characterize the transitional forest belt that stretches from the southeast corner of the state through west-central and northwestern Minnesota. The species remains least common in the intensively cultivated Red River valley and, contrary to Janssen (1987), in the southwestern corner of the state.
In the upper Midwest, the Cedar Waxwing’s breeding distribution has shown no widespread changes. Historically, it was and remains a widely distributed species. Elsewhere within its breeding range, two distributional changes have been noted: (1) in the past 30 years, the Cedar Waxwing has become more common in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, and (2) the southern periphery of the species’ breeding range has expanded south in regions of Kentucky, southern Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia (Witmer et al. 2014).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.