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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.