Big Breakfast

A verdin, missing most of its tail feathers during a molt, sticks its head into a prickly pear fruit to eat on a cloudy morning in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in September 2019

Watching the verdin eating from fruit almost as large as themselves, I wondered how it would look if I tried to wring every drop of sustenance from a five foot watermelon using only my face. This one had to fly precisely onto a cactus with thorns as long as its legs while missing many of its tail feathers but it did it with aplomb. Given their short beaks I don’t know if they open up the fruit themselves or if they leave the honors to something like a woodpecker with a longer beak and a head designed for hammering.


A verdin perches on a prickly pear spine with a line of fruit juice running down its front in the Troon neighborhood of Scottsdale, Arizona in September 2019

The verdin were looking a bit ragged, some unlike this one didn’t have much of the normal yellow coloring in the face. They were all wearing damp maroon neckties, a temporary adornment not because they had been bathing in the blood of their enemies but because they had been eating the fruit of the prickly pear. When I got home I found a nice paper online that confirmed my suspicion that this is the time of the year when they molt.


A verdin covered in prickly pear juice looks at me as it pauses while eating from a fruit almost as large as itself in our neighborhood in Scottsdale, Arizona in September 2019

Sunday morning instead of going for a hike I took a long walk through the neighborhood. It was my first time doing it alone since we moved here, my wife and I took a short one a few months ago, but this time I walked much farther. Natural landscaping abounds so I was greeted with many of the same creatures I’d see on the trails, but many communities are gated so I was limited in where I could wander. The hardest part was walking without Ellie, my constant companion for a decade, so I was delighted when on the way back a 3 year old pup named Jackson strained at the leash to meet me and then showered me with kisses when I crossed over to meet him. As I neared the house I saw familiar faces flitting about a patch of prickly pear, dining on fruit almost as large as themselves.