By far the most well known cactus in the Sonoran Desert is the saguaro. These desert giants are especially important to the Tohono O’odham, one of the Native American tribes that have inhabited the Sonoran Desert for thousands of years. Saguaros feature prominently in their beliefs and legends and they treat them with great respect. I also view these remarkable plants with great reverence. They never cease to amaze me. No two mature saguaros are the same. Like people, each has its own personality. I never met a saguaro I didn’t like.
Saguaros provide housing for many animal “guests”. Many birds, like Harris’ and red-tailed hawks, great-horned owls make their nests on saguaros, where the arms meet the trunk. The saguaro’s great arms shade the nests, and, being off the ground, they are protected from ground-dwelling predators.
Besides the birds that nest outside saguaros, there are also those that nest inside its protective trunk and arms. Safe inside, they are shielded from the hot sun and most predators. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers are hard-working woodpeckers that chisel out nesting cavities in saguaros where they raise their young. These cavities are then used for nesting in later years by other birds like elf owls, western screech owls, kestrels, purple martins and others.