Cedar Waxwing

The cedar waxwing has a number of distinctive elements that make it a popular subject for carvers.

By: Jerry Poindexter
Updated March 12, 2018
Photography by Glenn Bartley

The cedar waxwing gets its name from the wax-like “spangles” on the secondaries. Its mask and crest provide a couple more distinguishing characteristics.

A crested bird with a black mask, measuring between six and eight inches in length, the cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) has subtle blended browns and a yellow tail band at the tips of the tail feathers. The red wax-like appendages of the secondaries from which the bird gets part of its name are sometimes missing. The waxwing eats a lot of fruit, so the other half of its name comes from its propensity to consume the berries from cedar trees.


ChromaColour International

  • Vandyke brown
  • Payne’s gray
  • Ivory black
  • Burnt umber
  • Titanium white
  • Cadmium yellow light
  • Cadmium yellow medium
  • Yellow ochre
  • Cadmium red medium
  • Matte varnish

  • White gesso


  • ChromaColour series 1a, #2 and #4


Eyes: 5 (brown)

Wing cord: 93 (from the wrist to the tips of the longest primary feather)

Head width in front of the eyes: 14

Bill length:

  • Exposed culmen: 9
  • Gape: 14 
  • Width: 10
  • Bottom: 6

Tail length (visible): 36

Tarsus: 17
  • Width: 1.5
  • Height: 2

  • Hallux—8 plus nail (5)
  • Middle—14 (plus 5)
  • Inner—11 (plus 4)
  • Outer—10 (plus 4)

Cedar Waxwing

  1. Head, breast, nape, back, and scapulars
    Apply 1 part Vandyke brown and 2 parts burnt umber with a touch of yellow ochre and a touch of titanium white or gesso. It is okay if some of this color goes over the lesser and greater coverts.

    The malar has a wedge shaped marking of titanium white.

    Use ivory black with equal parts matte varnish and water.

    Under the lower mandible apply a mixture of 2 parts Payne’s gray, 1 part ivory black, with a touch of Vandyke brown. Wet blend this color into the upper portion of the throat.

  2. Head
    The head has a black mask (lores and wedge-shaped patch at the back of the eye) of equal parts ivory black and Vandyke brown. Apply a thin outline of titanium white around the mask. 

  3. Belly, sides, flanks and lower-tail coverts
    Dampen this area with water to avoid any hard water lines and apply 1 part yellow light thinned with 15 parts gesso to make a pale yellow. Blend this into the titanium white lower-tail coverts

  4. Primaries, secondaries, tertials greater, primary, and lesser coverts, alulas, and tail feathers
    Apply 2 parts Payne’s gray, 1 part ivory black with a touch of Vandyke brown, and a touch of gesso or titanium white. Keep in mind that the inner portion of the tertials are lighter and blend into the base color. The top 5 to 7 secondary feathers have an appendage of cadmium red medium.

    The tail feathers have a band at each tip of cadmium yellow medium that stands out against the dark color of the tail feathers. The primary feathers are edged in a paler gray.

    Rump, upper-tail coverts and leading edges of primary feathers
    Make a paler gray with 1 part titanium white with a touch of ivory black and a touch of Vandyke brown.

  5. Feet
    Equal parts ivory black and Vandyke brown.



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I have not carved a Cedar Waxwing Bird yet. I have been taking Wood Carving and Whittling classes. I came across this site by looking on the internet and wood like to know how to carve this bird and other birds. The Cedar Waxwing is a pretty bird and I wood like to know where I could find the carving instructions.


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