Arizona Wildlife

White-winged Doves pollinate Giant Saguaro Cacti

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.

birds with white tip on wings

White winged dove in the desert

The dove sexes look much the same, but the young white wings have a duller and grayer plumage than adults.

white winged dove baby bird

juvenile white winged dove has brown eyes and no blue ring

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.

White winged Dove

Adult white-winged doves have a patch of blue, featherless skin around each crimson red eye.

adult male dove bird with red eyes

Male White Winged dove – red eyes w blue ring

Adult males and females look-alike; except male doves are larger in size along with an iridescent sheen on their head and neck.

male white winged dove arizona birds

Male doves puff their chest to show dominance

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.

white winged doves in the desert

Male and female doves with red eyes and blue ring

The female white-winged birds don’t usually exhibit this commanding behavior.

dove birds in Arizona at birdfeeder

white winged dove’s white stripe

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.

white winged dove bird feathers

dove with white tail tip feathers

In the photos above and below you can plainly see this bird’s white tail tips.

bird with white feathers on tail

white winged dove birds in the desert

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!

dove bird with white stripe

wing span of white winged dove

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.

dove birds in the desert arizona birds

White winged dove tail and wings

The white-winged dove has a bold white band that appears as a brilliant white crescent when flying.

white stripe of the dove bird in arizona

white bar of the White winged dove

When the dove’s wings are closed, this area looks like a white bar on the lower edge of the wing.

arizona desert dove at bird feeder

tenacious birds – white winged doves

In the sweltering desert, white-winged doves are able to draw needed moisture from saguaro cactus fruit.

saguaro cactus with bird pollinating

White winged dove eats Saguaro cactus fruit

birds live on saguaro cactus flowers and fruit

white winged dove with 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.

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5 replies »

  1. I have what I think are doves. There are always two of them. They like to perch on my fence. I love the sounds they make – very relaxing. I’ll have to take photos. Maybe you can help me identify them.

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