The Very Small Verdin

A thief has been at work in the chuparosa patch! Verdin does not have a beak long enough to access the sweet nectar at the throat of the bloom, so makes a slit at the base of the flower and sips straight from the source. Feeding avidly at the chuparosa, Verdin does not contribute to pollination. 

In addition to pilfering nectar, busy Verdins eat 400-500 insects every day. They also feast on seasonal fruits of desert plants, and seed pods of trees such as ironwood, paloverde and mesquite. All of this nutrition supports an active metabolism that is on display as the tiny birds flit about constantly, chittering, gleaning insects and sipping nectar, often hanging upside down from plant stems to do so.    

Verdins are also energetic nest builders. Recently I watched a Verdin bring a long chain of fluffy plant material to an existing nest, apparently adding insulation for upcoming cold weather. Verdins build different types of nests for different situations. In spring, the solitary birds pair up and the male builds an outer shell of a breeding nest for his female. She completes the interior and lays her eggs. The male also constructs smaller roosting nests for nighttime use. Some of these are for the fledglings once they leave their natal nest.

Verdin nests are easy to see when you walk in a desert wash, built as they are within the outer branches of the trees. These enclosed, ball shaped nests have an opening facing out and downward. Breeding nests include an interior lip to prevent eggs and nestlings from rolling out. Clever Verdins build summertime nests with less insulation, and they position the opening facing towards prevailing breezes to provide cooling. 

Nectar awaits at the base of the tubular flowers


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