Illustration: Verdin

Illustration by John P. O'Neill

Map

Map: Verdin range

An acrobatic species, the Verdin is generally solitary away from nest sites. It is most easily detected by its surprisingly loud calls. Nest is an intricately woven ball of spiderwebs and small twigs. The male often builds several structures during the nesting season; both sexes roost in these year-round. Polytypic (4–6 ssp.; 2 in North America). Length 4.5" (11 cm).

Identification Very small body size with a medium-length tail. Sexes similar. Adult: dull gray overall, darker on upperparts, with a yellow face and chestnut shoulder. Small though heavy bill with a straight culmen that is sharply pointed. Juvenile: similar to adult, but paler gray and lacking the yellow face and chestnut shoulder making them appear very plain. Juveniles also have a pale base to bill.

Geographic Variation Variation in the 2 North American subspecies is weak and clinal. Western birds (acaciarum) tend to have more brownish coloration on the upperparts than those found from southern New Mexico to central Texas (ornatus).

Similar Species Yellow face and chestnut shoulder of adults distinguish them from other chickadee-like birds. Juvenile similar to Lucy’s warbler (particularly the female) but can be distinguished by its heavier bill with a pale base. The bushtit has a longer tail and smaller bill with a curved culmen. Gnatcatchers have longer, black tails and prominent eye rings.

Voice Call: a clear tschep and rapid chip notes. Song: a plaintive 3-note whistle, tee tyew too, with the second note higher.

Status and Distribution Common; uncommon in Utah and rare in Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle. Year-round: resident in desert scrub and other brushy habitats, including mesquite woodlands.

Population Stable, although there is very little data concerning this species.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006

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