Verdin and Nest Photographs and Sound Recording
Photos by Earle Robinson, April 1997, South Central Arizona
Verdins are small, industrious birds that build nests throughout the year. Usually when a bird is observed carrying nesting material, like the Verdin to the left, it is a sure sign that soon eggs will be laid in the nest. However, some birds build "roost" nests and "brood" nests. The roost nests are used as a temporary home until the next nest is built. Once in late September I happened on a Verdin just starting a nest. I waited, concealed, twenty feet away to see how the construction was performed. After about a dozen sticks had been laid, I left and then returned in about an hour to check on the progress. The nest appeared to be about 25% done so I watched to see how construction would proceed. To my surprise the nest was being taken apart and moved. The Verdin would remove a stick and fly away, out of sight, several hundred feet away. I watched several sticks disappear, then left again. When I returned in about an hour the nest was completely gone. Verdins sometimes build several nests at the same time. This could be for a specific purpose, such as to outwit predators. On the other hand Verdins may just build nests because it's fun.
If a Verdin is carrying food, then it can be used as confirmation of breeding. Sometimes birds carry food back to their mate on the nest because the mate is incubating the eggs. Once the eggs hatch one or both parents carry food back to the nest for the babies. The Verdin to the left appears to be carrying some sort of insect, like a moth. Perhaps even several moths at once.
Here are both adults at the nest entrance, with one parent carrying food. Verdins build cavity nests out of sticks, rather than grass, another common nest building material. Also, a Verdin nest is very distinctive. It is usually round, or close to round, about the size of a large grapefruit (12 -15 cm). The nest opening is on the side or the bottom of the nest. For a small bird it builds a pretty big nest.
Verdins like to hang upside down while they glean insects from trees and scrub. They act very much like chickadees when feeding and I have always wondered if a Verdin is a desert chickadee. Very fast, Verdins are as hard to photograph as warblers.
The original Verdin sound recordings were produced using a Sennheiser MKH70 shotgun microphone and the audio was stored on a 48 ksps DAT using a Tascam DA-P1 digital audio recorder. The recording was down-sampled to 44.1 ksps and converted to MPEG3 to reduce the file size. The recording contains examples of three different individuals. Note that there is a call note, a song consisting of two or three notes strung together, and an alarm call. The alarm call is made from single call notes closely spaced together and delivered with more volume. No cause for the alarm call could be uncovered, except the presence of the recordist.
download mpeg3 recording (verdin.mp3)
download mpeg3 decoder
Copyright Greg Clark, 1999