The white wing dove is related to our familiar mourning dove, but heavier in body and graced with a dashing white bar on each wing and white tips on the outer tail feathers. The white wing winters south of the United States and shows up here in the spring time about when the saguaros begin to bloom. Not many people know this bird contributes to the life cycle of the saguaro as they pollinate the giants when fluttering from one to the next sipping flower nectar. They also eat the fruits of the cactus, and will regurgitate the pulp for their babies. Saguaro seeds are transported in this manner, and seeds that land beneath a nest in a tree will have a sheltered spot to grow and thrive.
Droves of white wing doves visit our back yard every spring where they feast on the seeds of our bauhinia tree. Doves grind the desert seeds in their gizzards where sand or gravel helps pulverize the tough fibers. All that dry food requires the dove to find water and they might travel up to ten miles each way between the two necessities. Yes, a dove will lead you to water! This plump bird is tougher than it looks, and can last four or five days without drinking. Although losing up to 20 % of their body weight to dehydration they will recover quickly due to their unusual method of drinking. They suck water down, rather than sipping and tilting their heads back to let the water trickle in like most birds. The flashing white bars on the grey wings are quite noticeable, so keep your eyes peeled for this unassuming visitor. Or listen for a dove that coos “who cooks for you?”