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Possible Range Expansion of Cedar Waxwings in Georgia

Klaus, N. A.,  and T. Schneider.  2003.  Cedar Waxwings may be expanding range in Georgia, Oriole 68:(3-4) pp. 17-18.


On 30 May 2002, a Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) nest was discovered above the parking lot of the Brasstown Ranger District office of the Chattahoochee National Forest, near Blairsville, GA (lat N 34.866°,long W 83.991°; elevation 551 m).  The nest  was in a shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) within a small stand of shortleaf pine.  It was placed on a limb on the north side of the tree, 23 m above the ground,  approximately five feet (1.5m) from the trunk..  The lower four meters of the tree trunk  was  covered in poison ivy (Rhus/Toxidendron radicans).  At that time two parents were feeding an unknown number of young.  A later observer (N. Sekera, 31 May) witnessed at least two or three young being fed in the vicinity.

On 9 June 2002 (P. Hardy), discovered a Cedar Waxwing nest about 25 feet high in a Loblolly pine tree on his property on Lake Jennifer in southeast Americus, Georgia. Both adults were visiting the nest regularly, often together, but no eggs were ever laid.  The nest was abandoned on 17 June 2002. This is the first known nesting attempt of this species in the Coastal Plain.

These two independent nesting attempts stimulated our interest in the population dynamics of this species. We found that Cedar Waxwings are uncommon breeders in Georgia, especially outside the Southern Appalachians.  Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate substantial population increases in the Southeast (average annual population increase of 9.1% for the period 1980-2000,p<0.000 N=90 BBS routes).  Georgia has shown an even greater increase in detection of 13.3%, though not statistically significant due to the small sample sizes (p=0.14 N=4 BBS routes) (J.R. Sauer et al., 2001, The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 - 2000. Version 2001.2, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD).  Cedar Waxwings are know to preferentially nest in orchards, fields with scattered trees, or park-like settings (widely spaced trees, little mid- or under-story) and near water (J.E. Crouch, 1936, Auk 53:1-8;  C.P. Nicholson, 1997, Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN), and fruit constitutes a substantial portion of their diet (A.C. Martin et al., 1951, American Wildlife and Plants: a Guide to Wildlife food habits. McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York.; M.C. Witmer et al., 1997, Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). In The Birds of North America, No. 309 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.), The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and the American Ornithologists Union, Washington, D.C.).  Both sites were in man-made park-like habitat, and near water, with the Blairsville site  less than 300 m from Lake Nottely, and the Americus site less than 15m from Lake Jennifer.  The combination of park like habitat, fruit trees, and artificial reservoirs are increasingly common throughout Georgia as a result of development and may have increased the amount of habitat available for nesting.  A range expansion by Cedar Waxwings is currently underway in other parts of the Southeast and may be underway in Georgia, as well.

Nathan A. Klaus and Todd Schneider, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, Nongame Wildlife & Natural Heritage Section, Georgia, 116 Rum Creek Drive, Forsyth GA 31029
Phil Hardy, 119 Lake Jennifer Drive, Americus, Georgia 31709


Figure 1. Population trend of the Cedar Waxwing in the Southeastern United States, Breeding Bird Survey Data (Sauer et al. 2001).


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