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Robins and cedar waxwings are in town for the berries

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, January 26th, 2012 at 6:11 am in Cedar waxwings, Robins.

Robin Con 2012: Robins take a bird bath after feasting on messy Japanese privet berries. Photo by Jess Kolman, Pinole, CA
1robins2 jess kolman pinole

In response to your Jan. 24 column about robins and waxwings (, I’m attaching a couple pictures of what I’ve been calling Robin Con 2012.

Like others, we normally notice flocks of robins and waxwings in January, but this year the robin count has been off the charts. John H’s description in your column sounds much like our yard, with the birdbaths completely occupied and more robins waiting around and trying to muscle in. We had the waxwings for a few days, but sadly, not as many or for as long as most years. Last year we didn’t see the waxwings at all, so I hope they are not scratching the Bay Area off their winter visiting list.

“Incoming!” Cedar waxwings come diving in to join robins at the bird bath. Photo by Jess Kolman, Pinole, CA
1robins jess kolman pinole

In our neighborhood, the berry feast they are coming for is Japanese privet, which is a dreadfully invasive nonnative tree with nothing to recommend it except for the annual robin-waxwing extravaganza. Privets produce vast quantities of dark purple berries, and though I adore the birds who eat them, I do also refer to January as purple poo season, since the entire patio is covered with it. Later, I will have literally thousands of privet seedlings to pull up all over the yard. But I still feel privileged to get to share my yard and ring in every New Year with these spectacular flocks of birds.
Jess Kolman, Pinole, California

Seems like we used to have a lot more pyracantha berries and toyon berries growing throughout the Bay Area 20-30 years ago. The robins and cedar waxwings also paid us a regular annual visit in huge flocks. Ah, well, things change, especially when it concerns us humans. The environment never stays the same for too long when we’re around.

At least the robins and waxwings appear to be back again in large numbers this year (some areas also report lots of waxwings) … even if we have to endure “purple poo season” to see them. /Gary

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4 Responses to “Robins and cedar waxwings are in town for the berries”

  1. Diane S Says:

    These are wonderful pictures. Look at the wonderful white/yellowish tip to the waxwing tail feathers. I never noticed that before. These and the pictures earlier this week are delightful.

  2. Bill H Says:

    For a week now we have had a flock (or more) of Cedar Waxwings, along with Robins, in our neighbor’s tree here in Danville. They sit there for long periods occasionally swooping down into the yard out of view behind the fence. I’m assuming the neighbor has some manner of berry bushes. Once when the Waxwings took off in a flock I guesstimateed the number at around 50. I am an amateur photographer and enjoy getting photos of all of our backyard visitors.

  3. Rattakin Says:

    We’ve been getting flocks of cedar waxwings and robins as well, but they don’t stick around very long. They love the bird baths and the cherries I put out, but I would like to plant some berries to attract them. Are there any native berry species that would grow well in Livermore? I don’t know much about the plants in this area.

  4. Jess Says:

    I’m just seeing this now. If you see this, I recommend the following sites to learn about native plants. There are a couple great bird-gardening sites, and even though they are from So Cal, most of the plants they recommend are appropriate for the Bay Area as well. Even though I have nasty privets in my neighborhood, I always choose native, bird-friendly plants such as Toyon, Coffee Berry, Manzanitas and others for new plantings. I figure we owe it to the birds to replace the food sources that our neighborhoods have displaced.

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