A Well-Protected Nest in a Very Prickly Place

Years ago, I worked as a horticulturist in a community that was situated in the middle of the beautiful Sonoran Desert.  My commute was actually an hour each way, but I really didn’t mind.  I looked forward each day to the moment when I would leave the city and venture into the desert wilderness on my way to work.

Driving through the desert, I was surrounded by the iconic Saguaro cacti.  It was in one particular Saguaro cactus I first saw something rather unexpected.

Great Horned Owl Nest in Saguaro

Great Horned Owl Nest in Saguaro

Can you see it?  This was the nest of a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).

Each day, I would see the owl sitting on the nest and later raising her young.  And then one day, she was gone.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl from The Living Desert Museum and Botanic Garden

Afterward, I would look to see if the owl would return each year.  But, the owl did not.  The nest continued to gradually disintegrate until you could no longer tell that there had ever been one there.

Well last weekend, I just happened to be driving by on my way to see a client and I almost didn’t take the time to look over at the Saguaro because it had been over 10 years since I had seen a nest inside of its arms.

But, lo and behold, there it was…..

Owl Nest in Saguaro

New owl nest in Saguaro

Now I just need to find an excuse to drive up there again to see if I will be able to spot the owl and her young.

Interestingly enough, cacti are very popular places for birds to build their nests because they provide protection from predators.  I will be posting more photos in the future of more ‘prickly’ homes of different types of birds.

How about you?  Have you found a bird’s nest in an unusual place?  If so, please tell us where :-)

    • Noelle says

      Hello Jan,

      How great to have a Organ Pipe Cactus. I just love their beautiful shape. I hope to visit the Organ Pipe National Monument sometime soon. I have a Curved Bill Thrasher visit occasionally and hope to get a picture of it soon.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

  1. says

    It’s so cool how many birds use the Saguaro to make their nests in. I’ve watched Gila Woodpeckers making nest holes, Cactus Wrens will use last years woodpecker holes, and many other birds will use those nest holes, too. But I have to say I’ve never seen a Great Horned Owl nesting on one. That’s so cool!

    • Noelle says

      Hi Carole,

      It is just amazing how many birds make their home in the Saguaro cactus, isn’t it?

      I hope to get more photos, especially one of cactus wrens :-)

  2. Jennifer Humphrey says

    What a sweet nest! I am amazed by every bird’s nest I see. They are all so different. Thanks for the pictures!

    • Noelle says

      Oh, I definitely have more nest photos to come since I have a wonderful photographer on the lookout for me 😉

  3. says

    Noelle, What a thrill for you to discover this new nest. I hope you’re able to watch the owl, too. Last year a bald eagle nest was discovered near here in a tree. Unfortunately it got a lot of “press” and therefore, a lot a company. The eagle moved, which was too bad.

    I see many ruby-throated hummingbirds here in the summer. I continue to hope to find a nest, someday. Perhaps this summer? :-)

    You are a good person to be writing on this blog.

    • Noelle says

      Oh, thank you so much for the compliment. I am having a lot fun writing two blogs. You and I have the same hope….to find a hummingbird nest. I am constantly scanning my shrubs and trees. Please let me know if you find one :-)

  4. says

    What a great place to build a nest! I love seeing the habits of birds in this southwest environment so very different from my home in the northeast. I suppose the Robin who built her nest last year in the rustic basket I have on my front porch was a big surprise to me!

    • Noelle says

      Like you, I enjoy viewing birds and their nests when I travel as well. I actually found a bird’s nest the other day, up in a tree that was primarily made up of a plastic grocery bag. Thank you so much for your comment :-)


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