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Roadrunner: a Cuckoo Bird May 17, 2009

Posted by Lindy in Uncategorized.
Roadrunner perched in the Orphan

Roadrunner perched in the Orphan

I was standing by my kitchen sink fixing a glass of iced tea on this warm Sunday afternoon when a Roadrunner hopped into view in the fenced-in portion of our backyard. This fellow probably came for a drink of water but first decided to check out the Mesquite tree which shades most of this fenced in area.

We live in the Sonoran Desert on a 5 acre piece of land. We have views that stretch out on 2 sides of our property and go on for miles. We fenced in a small portion off the back of our house and installed a doggy door when we first moved here nearly 14 years ago. This small area has since grown into a miniature oasis with mature plants,  two Mesquite trees (one named The Orphan – but that’s another story) which provide shade for most of this area, flagstone in part of the area, benches, gardens, and water in various places for our dogs as well as for visiting wildlife. Before going to the water this guy decided to check out the view from the Mesquite and that’s when I was able to get a picture of him.  Roadrunners are fun-to-watch members of the ground cuckoo family.  They are quick enough to catch and eat rattlesnakes which make them beneficial to have around. However, I have never actually seen them eat rattlers. They do catch and eat many of the Collared lizards we have around our house.  They make a coo coo coo sound which becomes extremely loud when they have just caught their prey. Although these birds are able fly they are called ground cuckoos because they are a rather heavy bird in relation to their wing size and spend most of their time on the ground. The fellow in this picture flew into the base of the tree and then climbed to get to his perch on a branch about 18 inches over my head.  When he decided it was safe (I had gone back into the house) he climbed down to get his drink.  I watched him from our kitchen window and as he drank he was continuously on the lookout for danger, alternately raising and flattening the black crest atop his head. When the crest was flat it looked very much like a slightly off-kilter toupee.  He must have had other business to attend to because as soon as he had finished his drink he strutted off through the back gate and was gone.



1. Betty - May 17, 2009

That’s a great picture and story! We had a friend in Southern Arizona who hand-fed a roadrunner for months. They are interesting to watch, especially when they run, eh? Thanks for the fun post!

2. Susan J. Tweit - May 17, 2009

We used to have roadrunners in our yard in southern New Mexico, and I have seen them catch rattlers–young ones, not six-foot-long snakes. They’re also wonderful to watch in winter when they sun by raising the feathers on their back to expose their black skin and use the solar energy to boost their metabolism.

You’ve done a lovely job of evoking the essence of roadrunner!

3. Scibhneoir - May 19, 2009

That’s a great wee story and well done on getting a photo of the little guy! I used to be a big fan of the runner cartoons when I was little however I have never seen or heard a real one, we don’t have them here in Ireland and I have never seen one on my travels.
Our cuckoos arrived a few weeks ago and have been keeping us entertained with their song since then and will do until about July. I love to listen to them singing from their various locations around us.
We learnt a little poem about the cuckoo in primary school –
the cuckoo comes in April
and sings her song in May
in June she whistles her tune
and in July she flies away…

4. Sherrie Y - May 19, 2009

Believe it or not, Lindy, the very first day I moved to Salida a roadrunner zipped out in front of us on Highway 50, stopped in the road, put up both tail and crest as if to say, “Oh, @#$%! Where am I?” and ran back into a hotel parking lot. I haven’t seen one here since, but last year friends saw one (up CR 261). Maybe this one will hang around and keep you company for a while.

5. turtlewoman - May 19, 2009

Betty – I was glad my dogs were in the house napping and thus totally oblivious to his presense. I love watching nature unfold in my own backyard. This evening while I was cleaning up after dinner I watched a lizard sunning himself on a pile of leftover flagstone, a bunny chomping on dinner, and a line-up of birds waiting their turn at the “ol drinking hole” by the very back gate.

Susan, thanks so much for your comments. I add these to my notebook to help with our writing assignments. I once saw a Roadrunner with a small snake of unknown species in his mouth – I would like the opportunity to actually see one catch and devour a rattler. I understand the Roadrunner catches the rattler by its tail and snaps it like a whip, hitting its head on the ground until it dies.

Scibhneoir, I love that poem – will copy it into my nature journal. The Roadrunners here in the SW deserts do not migrate. We have these fellows with us year round. It is true though that we see more of them from spring through fall than we do during our brief but oh-so-welcome winter season.

Sherrie – Isn’t it wonderful to see these animals – I never saw a Roadrunner while living in CO and isn’t it amazing how some of these critters find their way into new territory? We had a Jaguarundi right here in Aguila a few years ago. I had always thought them to be a rather mythical creature – a figment of someone’s imagination – until I saw it feeding on what was presumably a dead rabbit right across the road from my house. As it turns out these marvelous creatures are definitely for real but seldom ever venture north of the Mexican border. We have never seen another one.

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