Verdin

Auriparus flaviceps

Resembling a chickadee, but not closely related, Verdins are the only member of the Auriparus genus. These birds are resident in desert regions of the southwestern USA, from California to Texas, and south to central Mexico, wherever thorny scrub vegetation is present. Perhaps no other bird is more at home in harsh environments of the American desert southwest, though the Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher might qualify near the top of the list as well.

These birds build bulky nests year round, but not just for raising babies. They also use them for shelter and protection from the extreme temperatures in the deserts where they live year round.

Modern science recognises six or seven subspecies of Verdin:

  • A. f. acaciarum lives in southwestern USA (California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico) and northwestern Mexico including Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango.
  • A. f. ornatus lives in southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma, and in northeastern Mexico.
  • A. f. flaviceps lives in Baja California, Sonora and Sinaloa (Mexico).
  • *A. f. fraterculus lives in west-central Sonora south to northern Sinaloa (Mexico), but not all observers recognise it as a subspecies.
  • A. f. lamprocephalus lives in southern Baja California (Mexico).
  • A. f. sinaloae lives in northwestern Sinaloa (Mexico).
  • A. f. hidalgensis lives in north-central Mexico.

I look forward to meeting these ambassadors of the desert when I find myself in their habitat. Like the chickadees they resemble, they seem to take their neighborhood watch seriously. Ever curious to see who’s around, they often put all their neighbors on notice that interlopers are about. At the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in central Arizona, I observed a Verdin feasting on the sap of a Honey Mesquite tree that a Red-Naped Sapsucker had opened up, adding yet another behaviour I hadn’t expected.

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