Patient of the Week: Tale of Two Tails, Cedar Waxwings Recuperate Together

On October 7, we received two Cedar Waxwings from different locations in Southeast Portland. One of them had struck a window, and wasn’t able to fly. The other was caught by a cat, and had sustained multiple injuries. Thankfully they were both brought to our hospital soon after they were found, which gave them the best chance of survival and release.

Two Cedar Waxwings perched on natural branches in their small indoor enclosure.
Two Cedar Waxwings perched on natural branches in their small indoor enclosure.

Upon arrival at our Wildlife Care Center, both birds were highly stressed, just like every animal that comes through our doors. They are out of their element, and have essentially just been abducted by predators, AFTER having just survived some sort of traumatic experience. This alone can be life threatening, so our first step is to place the animals somewhere warm, dark, and quiet, giving each new patient time to calm down before we examine them. 

During our physical exam, we found that the window strike patient had suffered from head trauma. The cat-caught patient had many puncture wounds and abrasions, as well as signs of air sac damage. Next, we created treatment plans tailored to each of the Cedar Waxwing’s specific injuries.

While the two Cedar Waxwing were recuperating in our special songbird room, we housed them together. This species of bird is incredibly social and normally travels and forages in flocks. We could even occasionally hear them singing! Cedar Waxwings are a fan favorite here at the Wildlife Care Center, both for their good looks and their fun personalities. After their medication courses had ended, we moved them to one of our larger outside flight enclosures. Here they could begin building back strength at their own pace, without the risk of being caught by a predator.

After about a month of treatment, the waxwing that had struck a window made a full recovery and was released back to their home! Unfortunately, the other bird that was attacked by a cat still had a lot more healing to do, and remained in the outdoor aviary. Between the multitude of their injuries, they just needed more time. Folks often ask how long the rehabilitation process takes, and this is a great example of why my answer is usually “unknown!” Even if these patients had the same ailments, recovery isn’t always the same for every individual. But add in different causes and wounds, and it can be weeks or even months of a difference. The cat caught Cedar Waxwing is currently still in our care, with other songbirds as well as a few new waxwing friends, and seems to be making great progress! They are on track for release once they are 100 percent.

Cedar Waxwings can be found throughout Oregon, from forests to urban areas. They want to be near fruiting plants, and will gather in abundant flocks to feed on their cherished berries. They are one of the most efficient fruit-eaters and can pluck berries while perching, hanging upside down, or even briefly hovering in midair! Unlike most fruit-eating birds that regurgitate seeds, Cedar Waxwings digest the entire fruit, and seeds are eventually dispersed in their feces. In the warmer months, they will also eat insects, sometimes catching them in flight!

Cedar Waxwings are very regal birds, in my opinion, as they look like they are always headed to a masquerade ball. They are medium-sized songbirds, with stout necks, and short wide beaks. Their feathers appear sleek and smooth, almost airbrushed, and fade from tan-brown, to gray, to pale yellow. Special head feathers that can raise or lie flat, called a crest, are often seen creating a droop over the back of the head. Probably their most outstanding trait, more than their namesake, is their striking black mask which is neatly outlined in white and extends from their beak to across both eyes. Cedar Waxwings are named for the waxy red tips on their secondary wing feathers, which look like droplets, although they can be difficult to see in the field

Cedar Waxwing, photo by Tara Lemezis

How To Make Your Space Bird-Safe!

Please keep your cat indoors, or set them up with a lovely catio if you are able (an outside enclosure for your cat) to give them fresh air and sunshine. You’ll keep wildlife safe, and also protect your cat from hazards like vehicles, cat fights, poisons, fleas, internal parasites, and predators. If a catio doesn’t work for you, you can keep your cat just as happy indoors by providing them with some vertical space, (like a cat tree) and/or access to window sills, a place to scratch (which many cat trees come with) and regular play time!

If your cat does bring you an animal, do not just let it go! Even if it looks fine to you, birds can appear uninjured to the untrained eye due to their feathered bodies and unique anatomy. Cats also have extremely harmful bacteria in their mouths that can lead to infection and the death of an animal if left untreated, so even with just a minor scratch the animal needs skilled medical attention.

Consider making your windows bird safe! Birds cannot see glass and don’t perceive it as a barrier. That means they can’t see that it is blocking their way, and sometimes will fly into it because they see the reflection of trees or the sky and think it’s a continuation of habitat, not a solid barrier. Because of this they often fly at full speed straight into our windows. While a few birds are lucky enough to only be stunned for a short time, nearly half of the birds will die on impact. Many others suffer injuries such as neurological damage, fractured bones, eye trauma, internal bleeding, or air sac ruptures. Without intervention, these birds die of their injuries or become easy prey for predators. Click here for more tips regarding DIY solutions, including naturescaping, decals/window film, and netting/screens.

If a bird does hit your window, securely contain it and follow the instructions here.

Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Wildlife Care Center accepts new patients from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day. You can also leave a message on our Wildlife Hotline at (503) 292-0304 or email and one of our wildlife solutions counselors will get back to you and provide advice for your specific situation.


We’re building a new Wildlife Care Center and need your help! If you would like to help injured and orphaned wildlife, please consider joining our crowdfunding campaign and making a gift to make this new facility a reality. We’re doubling the square footage, adding a surgical suite, and making many more important changes to provide the best care for our patients. Learn more at ForPortlandBird Alliance of

If you’d like to contribute to the Wildlife Care Center, please consider making a donation here. Your support helps us save lives.