Saturday, May 3, 2014

Roadrunner: Beep Beep!

Our neighborhood Roadrunner. He's a funny little critter, bold and ambitious. He often jumps the wall, runs right behind me, snags a bird and leaps back over the wall before the dogs and I even have a chance to think of moving. I suspect he is a teenager, hides out in the arroyos in the morning playing chicken with his friends. "I'll bet I can run past all four dogs in that yard over the wall and snag a sparrow!" Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This post is dedicated to my grandson, Timothy Jack. He's a bit young to have a favorite animal, so I chose one that I thought would make him laugh, since T.J. is always smiling!

I fell in love with Roadrunners the first time I saw one standing in front of our house looking for lizards. It moved its head slowly, carefully, as if it was trying to be invisible through lack of movement, but everyone in the front of the house knew he was there--it was completely silent. Not even a flit of a hummingbird--Road Runners can leap six feet in the air and catch a hummingbird in mid-flight. 

Roadrunner in Albuquerque. New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Suddenly it darted straight forward, literally with lightning speed, and snagged an anole lizard off the front of our house. Just as quickly, the bird slammed the lizard's head onto the cement, killing it instantly. 

Roadrunner in New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I call Roadfunners "humane Hunters." It must be terrifying to find yourself in the beak of a predator knowing you're about to be eaten, but Roadrunners are not into torture. They quickly release their prey from that misery with a swift smack on the head. 

This bird likes to meet my husband for lunch. He knows when my husband has his break and shows up in the parking lot begging for scraps. Roadrunners are opportunistic eaters and apparently enjoyed peanut butter and jelly. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners are in the Cuckoo family. There are two kinds, the Greater Roadrunner and Lesser Roadrunner. The Greater Road Runner lives in the American Southwest. The Lesser Roadrunner can be found in Mexico and Central America. The Roadrunner (Geococcyx) is also known as a Chaparral Bird and a Chaparral Cock. 

Roadrunner in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Roadrunners can "can outrace a human [they've been clocked at 20 mph], kill a rattlesnake, and thrive in the harsh landscapes of the Desert Southwest." I've seen them do all of these things, although I've also noticed that the Roadrunners that came out of the forest near our home in Texas were much more shy than the Roadrunners living near our home in New Mexico. 

Road runner in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

One day, a few years back, I was having a garage sale and it was packed! Most of the shoppers were in my driveway. I was talking to a neighbor when we suddenly noticed everyone was stepping back and to the side and laughing. That's when I saw the Roadrunner strolling between the shoppers, looking for food. He must have thought it was a party! 

Roadrunner stopping by the garage sale in Rio Rancho New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Our neighborhood Roadrunner also enjoys sitting in my shrub. He resembles a child hiding his head under a pillow with his bottom sticking up in the air shouting "You can't see me!" 

Roadrunner hiding in the shrub beside our house. He is surprisingly successful at snagging small birds and I have no idea why as he is clearly seen! Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Yes, he is very obvious when he sits in our shrub! Lol! 

Roadrunner hiding in our shrub. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I think the best experience we had with roadrunners was one spring in Texas when our house roadrunner showed up in the forest section in front of our house with his mate and a juvenile. They were teaching the baby to hunt, and they were diligent, firm, cautious--they will fly, but prefer to sprint to avoid predators, and do this well. 

Roadrunner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

 They moved slowly so the baby could keep up and this gave me the perfect opportunity to study them. I watched them from the window, admiring their fancy head dress, long legs and strong feet, and their beak that resembles that of the curve-billed thrashers that live in our yard here in New Mexico. I could see a patch behind each eye with shades of blue and red. Most of the time their tails were closed, but once the smaller bird opened its tail that had white tips.

Roadrunner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This spoiled little creature lives next to a chiropractor's office and the employees in the building bring snacks every day for his brood. 
Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Roadrunners live year round in the same place where they breed and raise their young, so when I speak possessively of these birds, there is a reason. It really is "the neighborhood bird" or "my backyard bird." They have an elaborate courtship display of dipping and bowing, then mate for life. They build their nests on a platform of sticks on a low tree or cactus. They have two to six eggs in a clutch and take turns keeping them warm. Their young leave the nest at two to three weeks old for hunting lessons. Watching that hunting lesson was one of the greatest animal experiences I had in Texas. The parents were so loving and careful. They are beautiful creatures. 

Road Runner in Kingsland, Texas saying "Adios!" Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. I think what surprises me the most, now that I've finished this post, is I still have dozens of photos to choose from, which is amazing considering they run at 20 mph! Lol! 

In the A to Z Bloggers Challenge R is for Roadrunner!


Maria Dunn said...

Glad you are continuing to try to finish. I hope I will see more. Love the roadrunners!! Maria

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Yes, I am determined! I love the roadrunners, too. They are so much fun to watch. I'll never forget the first time I saw one. I crept around my house following him, watching, but they are extremely intelligent and I could tell he knew I was there. He eventually flew back into the forest, but it sure was fun!