An essential bird pollinator and seed dispenser for the saguaro cactus plant is the white-winged dove.
The white-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica, is a large grayish brown stout bird with the renowned white stripe on their wings. This bird’s distinctive white wing bars are visible at rest and in flight.
The dove sexes look much the same, but the young white wings have a duller and grayer plumage than adults.
Juvenile white-winged doves have no blue orbital ring and their legs are brighter pinkish red. These young doves also have brown eyes instead of the adult bird red eyes.
Adult white-winged doves have a patch of blue, featherless skin around each crimson red eye.
Adult males and females look-alike; except male doves are larger in size along with an iridescent sheen on their head and neck.
The white-winged males show various dominant behaviors. He may crow around. This means the male dove puffs his chest up and walks around making cooing noises and bobbing his head up and down.
The female white-winged birds don’t usually exhibit this commanding behavior.
White-winged doves feed on a variety of seeds, grains, and cactus fruit. The doves occurring in the Sonoran Desert rely heavily on the pollen, nectar and red fruit of the saguaro cactus, Carnegeia gigantea, for nutrition and water.
In the photos above and below you can plainly see this bird’s white tail tips.
Male doves seek areas with easy access to food and water; they will defend their breeding territories against intruders and competitors.
These tenacious birds can fly 25 or more miles to find water!
Their lifespan in the wild is about 10-15 years. It is routine for white-winged dove pairs and families to stay together for life.
The white-winged dove has a bold white band that appears as a brilliant white crescent when flying.
When the dove’s wings are closed, this area looks like a white bar on the lower edge of the wing.
In the sweltering desert, white-winged doves are able to draw needed moisture from saguaro cactus fruit.
White-winged doves are a familiar sight at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. The doves migrate to the desert when the saguaro cactus are blooming. These birds nourish themselves on the buffet of saguaro cactus blossoms and fruit.