A Brief Photo Essay on Dining Habits and Survival


Cedar Waxwings are the smaller cousins of the Bohemian Waxwings familiar to Alaskans. They are fructivores, fruit eaters.

Cedar Waxwings in a Crab Apple Tree

Cedar Waxwings in a Crab Apple Tree

But a crab apple is at the very limit of the size that these small birds can swallow. It’s interesting to see the different techniques the species uses to feed.

Some birds nibble the fruits on the branch.

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Tear just a chunk of crabapple off.

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The skin is tough and the berries pull up when pieces are torn off.

And then easily swallow the bite-sized chunk.

The other school is more audacious.

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Take a whole berry. Struggle to get it swallowed.

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Try throwing the berry into the air to grab it at a different angle.

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Hmm. It doesn’t go down easily. This stage involved trying to choke it down and then gagging it back up 3-4 times.

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But after some struggle, it gets swallowed.

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During the half an hour or so that WC watched these birds forage, the individual birds stayed with the same technique. And they stuffed down an amazing number of berries, sometimes as many as 5-6 berries. That’s an impressive volume of food for a bird that is just a little over 7 inches long. The piecemeal technique took a little longer but resulted in no fewer berries going down the hatch. On the other hand, as the whole-berry birds struggled to swallow the big fruits they were helpless and mostly oblivious to their surroundings. When you are choking on your food, it’s hard to pay attention to your surroundings.

So the tradeoff is a slower meal, potentially exposing you longer to the hazards of being a small bird, against a quicker meal and being essentially helpless as you struggle to choke your food down. An interesting question.

 

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2 thoughts on “A Brief Photo Essay on Dining Habits and Survival

  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing series! You have captured some great personalities and fantastic stills. Their winter fruit-eating habit also means they must drink lots and lots of water due to the high starch content of their diet. We see them in large flocks along our creek side washing down their last meals. (http://wp.me/p28k6D-27z)

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