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.

Neckties

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.

Verdin

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.

It’s a Good Thing Saguaros Aren’t Carnivorous

A white-winged dove sticks its face into a saguaro fruit to feed along the Latigo Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Last spring I was amazed at how many birds fed at saguaros as they bloomed and fruited, such as this white-winged dove sticking its face into fruit at the end of an arm along the Latigo Trail. It’s a good thing saguaros aren’t carnivorous or a lot of birds would lose their heads!

A cactus wren sticks its head into a saguaro blossom to feed in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

Cactus wrens are smaller than the doves but still large for wrens, this one stuck its head deep into a blossom on the saguaro where it was building its nest and raising its young. When it emerges its head will be covered in pollen, some of which will be deposited at the next blossom it visits.

It s a Good Thing Saguaros Aren t Carnivorous Verdin Edition

The tiny verdin had to stick most of its body into the fruit to feed at the back, in this picture it is feeding closer to the front and only its head is hidden. When the fruit ripens it is the white-winged doves that eat the most, but other birds enjoy the short-lived bounty as well.

This Meal Came with Strings Attached

This Meal Came with Strings Attached

I only saw the aftermath but it looked to me like this verdin had grabbed a free meal from a spider’s web, but the web was so strong it kept the meal tethered to the cholla. Eventually by beating its wings and attempting to fly the webbing broke and the little bird was able to fly away.