Reimagining the Cedar Waxwing

Ryan Berkley reimagines this avian just in time for the Christmas Bird Count.

Growing up in the mountains near Paradise, California, Ryan Berkley always wanted to become a comic book artist, which is what inspired him to "doodle" a series of animals dressed in various human outfits for a Portland, Oregon, art show. His sketches were such a hit, they sold out, and Berkley went on to sell hundreds of thousands of prints on his Etsy site.

Here, the 36-year-old illustrator's whimsical portrait of a Cedar Waxwing pays tribute to National Audubon's 115th Christmas Bird Count, which will be held this year from December 14 to January 5. Subtle coloring in the clothing above is reminiscent of John James Audubon's painting showing the bird's striking plumage and dramatic markings, but back in Audubon's era, waxwings weren't admired only for their fetching appearance. They were also considered a delicacy. Audubon himself wrote, "They fatten and become so tender and juicy as to be sought by every epicure for the table."

Luckily for the waxwings, wildlife protections passed in the early 1900s removed them from our collective menu, and they remain common backyard visitors from coast to coast.