A pair of Cedar Waxwings built a nest about 5 feet above the ground in a spruce tree adjacent to my workshop at our cottage at Kendleston Beach. It’s located about 50 miles north of Regina, Saskatchewan, on Last Mountain Lake.
From the window in the workshop, a good view of the nest could be seen from a distance of about 10 feet. I watched the nest building as well as the egg laying and finally, the hatching of 5 young. Both adult birds were very attentive during this stage. During the feeding stage, I noticed the parents spent long periods away from the nest. When a parent arrived back at the nest there would be a long feeding period, the parent apparently regurgitating berries to feed the young.
During one of those long periods of absence, I noticed a female sparrow hopping from branch to branch as it approached the nest. My initial concern was that the sparrow was going to kill the young, a habit I have noticed on several occasions while monitoring my bluebird trail. This alerted me to watch very closely and then I noticed the sparrow had a worm in its beak. It approached the nest very cautiously and finally fed the worm to one of the young birds.
This procedure continued day after day until the young birds fledged. The sparrow never entered the nest or sat on the birds at any time. During the day she would take a rest sitting very close to the nest, sometimes closing her eyes for a nap. Late in the evening the sparrow seemed to disappear, leaving the young alone. I checked late at night to find the young abandoned.
Once the sparrow started feeding the young I never saw the waxwing adults in the vicinity of the nest. I am pleased to report that the young waxwings seemed to thrive on their new diet and didn’t seem to suffer from the lack of maternal warming during the fairly cool nights. They all fledged successfully.