Friday, March 8, 2013
A Tiny Verdin
While I'm away in Chicago, here's a post from a recent trip to N. Scottsdale, Ariz:
This tiny little Verdin typically darts quickly amidst the desert sage plants and mesquite trees it is fond of. Its movements remind me of gnatcatchers. They're incredibly quick, continually darting around in shrubs, and their small size (only a little over 4"!) can make them somewhat difficult to photograph.
Found throughout the southwestern U.S. states and Mexico, the Verdin is the only North American member of the penduline-tit family (Remizidae), which are found throughout Eurasia and Africa. Most members of the family build incredibly complex hanging nests from spiderwebs, but the Verdin does not. It chooses instead to harvest thorny branches, readily available in its arid habitat, and builds a domed nest in a shrub.
And, it doesn't just build nests for breeding. It's one of the few birds that builds a roosting nest. Temperature ranges in the desert are extreme and the small roosting nests are well insulated to help the birds stay warm during the winter months.
The Verdin's beak is thinner than a typical tit's, and is used to pry bugs out of thin crevices in trees and flowers. Typical of other tits, the Verdin has a tendency to hunt upside down along tree limbs. Verdins also consume nectar. It'll visit hummingbird feeders and loves fresh-cut oranges. During the spring desert bloom, Verdins are often spotted sipping nectar from cactus flowers (I'd love to see that!).
The distinguishing russet shoulder patch isn't visible in this photo, but a good photo showing this can be found in a wonderful Sonoran birds post by Jeff Cooper.