Auriparus flavicepsverdin

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Geographic Range

The verdin occupies desert regions of southwest North America from southwestern Colorado down into Mexico, throughout Baja California and along the Gulf of Mexico south to Tamaulipas.

(Sibley, 2000; Webster, 1999)

Habitat

The verdin is primarily an inhabitant of desert scrub areas, particularly in desert riparian zones and along washes. Verdins prefer thorny brush over open desert and are found at lower elevations but can be present at higher elevations in central Mexico.

(Webster, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    2135 (high) m
    7004.59 (high) ft

Physical Description

The verdin has an ash-gray upperside and a pale-gray or white underside. The head is yellow and has dark lores. A maroon patch on the shoulders is present. Males are brighter overall; juveniles lack the yellow head, dark lores and maroon shoulder patch and are plain gray overall. Very small bird, with a short, rounded tail and a short and sharp bill.

(Sibley, 2000; Webster, 1999)

  • Range mass
    6 to 8 g
    0.21 to 0.28 oz
  • Range length
    90 to 110 mm
    3.54 to 4.33 in
  • Average wingspan
    16.25 cm
    6.40 in

Reproduction

In March males may begin building a display nest to attract a female. Both male and female will finish the nest together and the first clutch will be laid by mid-March to April. Both the sexes prepare a site for the nest by removing thorns from the area. The male's role in construction is dominated by the outer shell of the nest, while the female works on the inner layers. Nest sites are built at an average height of 1.8 m from the ground, ranging from 0.8 to 4 m. Several nests may be built close together by individuals of the same family group. However no cooperative nesting has been recorded. Nests tend to be conspicuous because they are placed in vegetation lacking dense coverage. However the nest may be composed of thorny branches, helping to reduce the threat of predation. In general the nest is domed with its entrance facing away from the center of the host plant supporting it. Nests built in the summer are built facing prevailing winds most likely for cooling purposes, while in the spring nests face away from prevailing winds. (Sibley 2001; Webster 1999)

Females lay 3-6 blue-green to greenish white eggs weighing about 0.96 g each. Egg-laying begins as soon as the female finishes lining the nest. Eggs are laid one per day in the mornings of consecutive days. Females have a brood patch and incubate the eggs for 14 to 18 days. Only the female incubates the eggs but the male remains in the vicinity of the nest and vocalizes frequently during incubation. Young fledge from the nest 17 to 21 days after hatching depending on the availability of insects for feeding. Males play a larger role in feeding fledglings as females may begin to lay a second clutch within 2 days after the young fledge. If a second clutch is laid, the male becomes fully responsible for the first fledglings. Gradually the male will lead the young further from the nest to forage in new feeding areas. (Webster, 1999)

  • Breeding season
    March to August
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 6
  • Average eggs per season
    4
  • Average eggs per season
    4
    AnAge
  • Range time to hatching
    14 to 18 days
  • Range fledging age
    17 to 21 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

The female solely incubates the eggs while the male calls frequently during incubation. Once the young have fledged the male plays a greater role in foraging as the female attempts to lay a second clutch. If the second clutch is laid, the male assumes all responsibility for the first set of young. (Webster, 1999)

Lifespan/Longevity

The longest-living Verdin is recorded at 5 years 7 months. But data suggests that the average lifespan rarely exceeds more than 3 years.

(Webster, 1999)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    5.6 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    67 months
    Bird Banding Laboratory

Behavior

The verdin rarely approaches the ground, instead foraging within live foliage of trees and shrubs. When feeding the verdin will often grasp flowers and prey with one foot to examine it and gain leverage. When flying from branch to branch or tree to tree, the

verdin uses short, quick flaps. Often it hops from branch to branch. Males are solitary and will tolerate other males to within 0.5 km of their territory. The verdin can be aggressive in the presence of Bendire's thrashers, cactus wrens and loggerhead shrikes. Generally the verdin is one of the last birds to begin morning activity and the first to roost in the evening. (Sibley, 2001; Webster, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The bulk of the diet of the verdin is insects and is complemented by nectar, fruits and seeds of legumes. Verdins forage within desert shrubs and trees, flitting actively among the limbs chasing insects. Verdins will also forage from flower and will feed from hummingbird feeders in suburban landscapes. When the verdin captures large prey it holds it with its feet and tears it apart with its bill. When feeding foraging from long flowers it will pierce the base of the corolla to reach the nectar. In fall and winter the verdin will feed on fruits and berries as well as seeds from legumes. The verdin has shown no evidence of food storage. (Webster, 1999)

Foods eaten include: caterpillars, jumping spiders, aphids, beetle and wasp larvae, leafhoppers, berries, nectar, palm fruits and seedpods of legumes.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • nectar

Predation

When a verdin detects a predator it repeatedly gives an alarm call of gee-gee-gee and will also make this call when foraging is interrupted by a large flock of birds. (Webster, 1999)

Conservation Status

Verdins are negatively impacted by the loss of habitat due to commercial and residential development. While healthy populations exist within suburban environments, verdin populations have been shown to decrease in highly urbanized environments such as mobile home parks and golf courses. However no management efforts have been taken to increase populations.

(Webster, 1999)

Contributors

Dave Hyett (author), University of Arizona, Jay Taylor (editor), University of Arizona.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Sibley, D. 2001. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Sibley, D. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..

Webster, M. 1999. Verdin, Auriparus flaviceps. Pp. 1-16 in Poole, A., Gill, F., eds. The Birds of North America.