Dining Out

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwings have been sparse at the Fill this winter. At this season, they roam about in small flocks, looking for the last of the fruit from the fall harvest, so usually when you see one, you see several others. I’ve been looking for them every day and wondering why they’re not here. The Fill still has berry-laden serviceberry bushes just waiting for birds to come by and dine, but not even the American Robins are doing that. They’d rather eat worms.

I love Cedar Waxwings because they look so exotic, with their black masks, yellow-banded tails, pale yellow bellies, and outrageous crests. I think they must have the smoothest body feathers of any songbird – they look like they’re dressed in a Lycra-like supersuit as eye-catching as any comic book hero.

Last August and September, they were everywhere, picking off the berries from the trees and bushes that dot the site. They must have eaten all the tasty food because they disappeared for months. Now a few are back, and they don’t look happy. Yesterday they were perched on the serviceberry bush right here near the kiosk. A few withered berries clung to the branches, and the birds were studying them. Finally, one bent, pecked at a berry as if to test its edibility, picked it off the bush, held it in its bill for a while, then gulped it down.

Unlike most Cedar Waxwings this one looked a bit scruffy. I think maybe it was a juvenile just beginning to molt into its spectacular adult plumage. It reminded me of my teenagers when I called them to a dinner of their least favorite foods, liver and broccoli.  They would sit there just like that Cedar Waxwing, pecking at their plates, finally spearing a morsel with a fork, and gulping it down without chewing or – I’m sure – tasting. Food, yes, but not appetizing.

The adult waxwing nearby looked on with no sympathy, its beady eyes as stony as mine must have been all those years ago. If it had had vocal chords and a grammatically organized bent of mind, it would no doubt have echoed what I used to say to my kids: “Quit griping and eat your broccoli.”

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