ARE THESE THE SMARTEST CRITTERS IN WETLANDS PARK? OR ARE THEY AMONG THE MOST PARANOID?
Tiny gray bundles of energy with yellow heads and chestnut shoulder patches, Verdins (Auriparus flaviceps) have amazing nesting habits. We often notice their round to oval nests four to eight feet above the ground in thorny shrubs or trees long before spotting the birds!
Compared to the size of the birds, verdin nests are large. The birds build these nests in quantity for use all year long. The birds use them as courtship displays, to lay eggs and raise young, and as sheltered roosting places. In fact, it’s been documented that one ambitious pair of Verdins in Arizona built eleven nests in a single year!
Verdins use thorny twigs for nest construction serve to discourage predators. They place nest entrances low on one side and open to the prevailing wind for cooling in summer and away from the wind to retain heat in winter. In either scenario, the birds insulate the nest cavities well with feathers, grass, leaves, and spider webs.
Verdins are voracious hunters, hopping vigorously from branch to branch in trees and bushes. They even swing upside down like trapeze artists to capture insects and spiders that form most of their diet. They supplement their meals with fruits, seeds, and nectar from flowering plants. A biologist colleague even observed a verdin drinking from a box of fruit juice and eating a discarded piece of chicken in downtown Las Vegas!
Please enjoy these clips:
– Chris Leavitt, President; photo by Philip Martini