Two Cedar Waxwings materialized above the wildlife park in Northern Virginia and pirouetted into an aerial ballet. They rose and fell, circled high above the lake, then swooped down close to the ground. They pulled all this off in precise formation like two tiny jets on military maneuvers.
And then the real show began. They landed side by side on a branch at the edge of the lake and began an exchange recognizable no matter whether the species is winged, four-footed or two.
The mating dance was on.
The Cedar Waxwing is an elegant bird. It has a black mask, slicked back head feathers, a brilliant touch of red at the wingtips and a yellow bar on its tail. A junta general couldn’t come up with more dazzling regalia.
They are full of energy, captivating and fascinating, says Robert Rice, a veteran scientist with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, who wrote the center’s summary on Cedar Waxwings.
These stylish birds are also gluttons. They can strip a tree of fruit so quickly they become temporarily too weighty to fly. “They can eat so much fruit it ferments in their gut and they go wobbly for a while,” said Rice.
Cedar Waxwings often travel in small groups, and will sweep through a set of trees and scarf up every ripe berry like locusts.
But the other day at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Va., these two stayed mostly to themselves. They seemed transfixed when they landed on a branch and began their dance.