Birds That Pollinate and Help the Desert Bloom

By Sy Maher

There are many helpers to aid the Sonoran desert.  One is the White-winged dove, a pollinating bird that loves the nectar of the great saguaro. They are large birds with a white, crescent-shaped patch on its wing and have bright red eyes. The White-winged dove is usually found in the desert, open woodland, and southern suburbs of the US and Mexico.
It plays a very important role in the life cycle of the saguaro cactus.

Two White-winged Doves perching on a cactus in Tucson, Arizona, USA.

Just like a bee, the White-winged dove moves from flower to flower, sipping nectar and pollinating the saguaro cactus. When the fruit opens on the limb it busts into bright red stars. Now the bird has another source of food.

The sweet fruit is filled with thousands of tiny seeds. This is an announcement to all the other sugar-loving fowl to come and help to spread tiny saguaro seeds.

The Gila woodpecker may make its home inside a saguaro. They mainly eat bugs but enjoy cactus fruit, mistletoe, and berries. This helps to scatter and aids in sowing the plant seed. The woodpecker often abandons their home in the saguaro cactus and other desert animals move in when the nest is vacant. Many times, it is an Elf owl that takes up residency.

Elf  Owl

The curve-billed thrasher has a variety of different songs and is known as the cuitiacoache, the songbird of Mexico. They eat seeds, Cacti fruit & berries, and seeds.

The saguaro cacti is a dominant plant in the Sonoran Desert. Gilded Flicker, Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxias, Hummingbirds, Ravens and House Finches are just some of the birds seen sipping at the saguaros nectar or partaking of its fruit. They all serve the desert and its plants in one fashion or another. Of course, we know there are bees buzzing around any flowers in the desert as well. We also see these birds in our own backyards as they integrate out of a diminishing natural habitat and mingle with ours.



Photos and Attributes
Cover Photo and Blog Photo  White-winged Dove By SearchNet Media – White-Winged DovesUploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0,

By dominic sherony (Elf Owl) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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