The Winter 2004 issue of Birdscope, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology newsletter, highlights some fascinating facts about the Cedar Waxwing. This attractive avian is described as “one of the most frugivorous birds in North America.” Frugivorous, you say? That’s a mouthful. When a word like frugivorous enters a room, people sit up and take notice. But what does it mean?
Frugivorous does not describe physical features, although the Cedar Waxwing is certainly one of the sleekest birds around, rivaled only by its Bohemian cousin. Nor does the word allude to a nomadic nature, which would make sense considering the waxwing’s itinerant ways. Rather, frugivorous has to do with the surest way to a bird’s heart…its stomach.
Frugivorous simply means “fruit-feeding.” Just as carnivores eat meat and herbivores eat plant matter, frugivores subsist primarily on fruit. The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few temperate region birds that specializes in eating fruit. It may sound good, but this diet is not all fun and games. Besides contending with occasional fruit shortages, the waxwing must also be wary of an excess of fermented fruit, as alcohol poisoning is a real threat. Another lesser-known peril is, of course, FWI — flying while intoxicated!
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