Physical characteristics

Bombycillids are medium-sized songbirds with short bills, sleek plumage, head crests, and tails of varying length. The waxwings have fawn-gray bodies, and black chin and eye masks. Their wings have contrasting plumage with white, crimson, or yellow patches and their common name refers to the red, wax-like tips present on the secondary flight feathers. (These are absent however in the Japanese waxwing.) All have a bright band of orange or yellow at the base of the tail. The cedar waxwing's tail band is usually yellow, but in the past 30 years many have been sighted with orange tail bands, apparently due to pigments in the fruits of the invasive European honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), which has successfully established itself in the United States and is eaten by the birds.

Silky flycatchers have longer tails than waxwings and their head crests (present in three of the four species) often appear as erect bristles. The plumage is black, gray, or brown, some species have brightly colored patches of yellow or white. The gray hypocolius is gray with a black tail band and face mask.

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