Hello Stalkers! Are you enjoying your summer? This is the twenty-fifth installment of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors. We love the amount of interaction you guys are having on the Facebook Page. We love being able to share with Mike how many people like his photos and what you say about them. It really tells him that his work is valued and appreciated. The twenty-sixth week’s issue will mark the halfway point in our journey. To show our appreciation to you we will be running a sale on memberships and DVDs. We’ll send out emails with the links, so keep your eyes open and encourage friends to sign up and invest in a dvd, to keep supporting Blair and his work.
Do you remember Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner? A great cartoon by Warner Bros. that popularized the fascinating roadrunner. This is popular not only because of the show but because it can outrace a human, kill a rattlesnake, thrives across American deserts and has a very distinctive appearance.
The Greater Roadrunner is actually a part of the Cuckoo family (Cuculidae), which is characterized by the feet which have two toes facing forward and two behind. These are very large birds, varying 20-24 inches from tail to beak. They are tan or brown with extensive black streaking, this gives them a black and white appearance. Its mottled plumage help it blend in with dusty shrubs that dot desert landscapes. They have strong feet and long, stout legs. The Greater Roadrunner has a oversized bill and a distinctive crest on its head. They also have short, rounded wings with a white crescent.
Greater Roadrunners prefer open, flat, rolling terrain that has scattered cover. This narrows their habitat to the Southwest and into northern California. Their habitat has also been spreading out east into Missouri and Louisiana in the recent years. Roadrunners avoid heavily forested and densely populated areas, but can tolerate sparse developments and farmland. These birds have a few different characteristics that allow them to thrive in the hot, dry conditions of their habitat. Their carnivorous diet allows them to have a large supply of moist prey that includes mammals and reptiles. They eliminate slat through a nasal gland instead of the urinary tract like most birds; this process takes less water. It’s also said that they are able to reabsorb water from their feces before excretion.
Greater Roadrunners’ diet consists of mostly animals. This includes almost anything they can catch and being an extremely quick bird, that gives them a good range of prey. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs, insects, scorpions and birds all make the list. They are opportunistic predators and will even prey on other birds, chicks and bird eggs. These birds can also eat poisonous prey, including venomous lizards and scorpions, with no ill effect. Roadrunners can also kill and eat rattlesnakes, sometimes by working with another roadrunner. The extreme quickness of this bird allows it to snatch prey, such as a dragonfly, from midair.
Although the Greater Roadrunner is quick on the ground, it isn’t a very good flyer. When threatened, they may execute a short burst of flight to find a hiding place, but otherwise these bird limit their flying to gliding from a nest or perch to the ground. Roadrunners prefer to race along roads, streambeds and well-worn paths. Their speeds can reach up to 17 miles per hour and often features a clownish gait.
All About Birds provided an interesting story-line connected with these birds.
“Roadrunners hold a special place in Native American and Mexican legends and belief systems. The birds were revered for their courage, strength, speed, and endurance. The roadrunner’s distinctive X-shaped footprint—with two toes pointing forward and two backward—are used as sacred symbols by Pueblo tribes to ward off evil. The X shape disguises the direction the bird is heading, and is thought to prevent evil spirits from following.”
While the Saturday morning cartoon gave us fabulous chases and a long run of Roadrunner’s victories over Wile E. Coyote, a real-life coyote would prove to be a real danger to a Greater Roadrunner. Even though Roadrunners can reach 17 miles per hour, coyotes can achieve a top speed of 43 miles per hour. This is more than twice as fast and would allow them to quickly overcome the bird.
Blair has a couple of videos available that feature these birds. Roadrunner Reflection depicts a lonesome Roadrunner seeking companionship with his reflection and Roadrunner Prey features a pair of Roadrunners run and hop about, catching prey for their youngsters. Keep your eye out for these distinctive birds.
Be sure to check out the Roadrunner Photo Gallery!