Spring 2010 Newsletter

Cedar Waxwings

It has been another wonderful winter for Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Staff in the Natural Areas has been able to get a good look at this brilliantly colored bird this year. One trait that is always striking, one in which you can hardly get close enough to see, is the red wax tipped secondary feathers. The exact purpose and function of the wax tip is under much debate among ornithologists and biologist.

Cedar waxwings fly in gregarious flocks to southern United States and Central America every winter to escape the brutal cold of their breeding range in Northern United States and Canada. These birds tend to stay in their flocks year-round, feeding almost solely on fruit. What intrigues most people are their brilliant color and their long head crest. Throughout its entire range, people have been able to find secondary feathers with a red waxy tip. Many ornithologists have long pondered the reason for this waxy tip which can be found in both male and female birds.

The pigment in the tips of the secondary wing feathers of the waxwings is astaxanthin, which is a carotenoid pigment. Because both male and female can have this waxy tip, it likely does not serve the purpose for sex recognition. Furthermore, researchers are now finding that the waxy tips on the secondaries are an age related feature. They found that the number of tips present was directly correlated with bird’s age. They went on to suggest that because these birds, both young and old, arrive to a breeding area together in migrating flocks, birds choose mates based on individuals in the flock and not on territory size or quality (Mountjoy and Robertson 1988). Studies have shown that older, more mature males can provide better care for their offspring than younger males and can provide more food to females. Therefore, females with older males can do better than females with younger males (Mountjoy and Robertson 1988).

There is still much debate on whether or not this is the reason why cedar waxwings have red wax tipped secondary feathers but, as with anything in nature, very few things are random and without a reason.

Friends of Friedrich Wilderness Park participation in regional and city planning

The Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan is a regional planning effort to balance the conservation needs of rare plants and animals with the demand for economic growth and development. The SEP-HCP will create a coordinated regional conservation program to protect sensitive natural resources in south central Texas. FOFWP board members are participating in the Stakeholder Group and the Citizens Advisory Committee. Also, San Antonio Natural Areas ecologist and Friends member Jayne Neal serves on the Biological Advisory Team. See www.sephcp.com for more information.

We also have a board member serving on the city’s North Sector Planning Team. After adoption, the North Sector Plan will become a component of San Antonio’s master plan. For more details, please go to http://northsectorplan.com.

FoFWP Board Election
Our annual board elections are coming up in May. If you know of anyone who might be interested in serving on our board, please contact us by April 5 at [email protected] We are in particular need of someone who could serve as treasurer, but anyone with a serious interest is welcome to inquire.

Please remember to renew your membership (your renewal date shown on the address label).
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(Level of membership: ..... adult $25; ......senior $15; ......family $30; .......contributing $50).
FoFWP is a non- profit, charitable organization; and all contributions are tax deductible.

Please mail to:
FoFWP, 21395 Milsa Drive, San Antonio, TX 78256-9610
FRIENDS OF FRIEDRICH WILDERNESS PARK
21395 Milsa Drive
San Antonio, Texas 78256

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