How I Got the Shot: Gilded Flicker and Bees Pollinating Saguaro Cactus Blooms

Gilded Flicker and Bees Pollinating Saguaro Cactus Blooms

Gilded Flicker and Bees Pollinating Saguaro Cactus Blooms

Story and photo by Wendy Kaveney

The Giant Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus) is indigenous to the Desert Southwest and blooms in the spring.  Saguaro flowers bloom for less than 24 hours, allowing only a little time to be pollinated. During the flower’s short life, it provides food for bees and birds during the day, and for bats during the night. They, in turn, pollinate the flowers.

I feel very fortunate to live in the Sonoran Desert in southwest Arizona where the gilded flicker (Colaptes chrysoides) has a limited year-round range.  The gilded flicker feeds primarily on insects, fruits and seeds and they absolutely love the peanut suet I put out for them which makes me quite lucky to see these beautiful birds on a daily basis.  They have become one of my favorite backyard visitors to observe.

This photo was taken in my neighbor’s back yard in April at the beginning of the saguaro blooming/pollination season.  Through my long lens, I was amazed to see the number and variety of insect pollinators swarming around the crown of white blossoms!  When a gilded flicker arrives, it is comical watching it compete for nectar!  As it lands and jumps from flower to flower, it systematically picks off the insects and bees with its bill, flicking them to the side before diving head-first into the flowers.

Knowing the how the gilded flicker behaves and what happens when the saguaro blooms were key to capturing this image.  Sometimes, photographers also have to be botanists and ornithologists.

Technical details:  Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 200-400 mm f/4L IS USM EXT at 533 mm, Gitzo tripod w/ Wimberley Sidekick 1/2000 sec, f/8, ISO 800, AV, Partial Metering.

Wendy’s image won second place in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2018 Garden for Wildlife Photo Contest and will be published in the April/May 2019 issue of National Wildlife Magazine.

Wendy Kaveney is a photographer living in Buckeye, Arizona.  She is represented by the Jaynes Gallery at the Danita Delimont Stock Photography Agency and have been published nationally and internationally in magazines, ads, books, calendars, greeting cards and brochures.  See more of her work at Wendy Kaveney Photography