What's faster than most humans, can kill a rattlesnake, can survive in a desert and hold a special place in Native American and Mexican beliefs and legends? No, I'm not talking about the latest episode of Naked and Afraid or Alone. I am expounding on just some of the interesting facts about Greater Roadrunners.
Roadrunners use their speed to run down their prey such as insects, scorpions, centipedes, frogs, toads, small mammals, reptiles, birds, and will even eat bird eggs and chicks. They have also been known to take advantage of carrion. Roadrunners can kill a rattlesnake by repeatedly pecking the snake's head with their thick beaks. They will also beat small mammals and lizards against rocks to break the bones making them easier to swallow. In the winter roadrunners will supplement their diet with seeds and fruit.
We had a young roadrunner try to take advantage of our platform bird feeders. He would land on the platform and lay
flat with his wings spread and head turned to one side. He was very patient and would remain motionless for 10 to 15 minutes. When the birds started to return to the feeder he would become excited and his tail would start to bob up and down. I never did see him successfully hunt with this behavior. But, he did get the nickname of "Tail".
All though my interest in roadrunners probably came from the cartoon character with his familiar "Beep-beep," the roadrunners hold a revered place in the Pueblo tribes. The X shaped footprint the roadrunner makes with two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backwards is thought to confuse evil spirits. The spirits could not decide which way the bird was heading so they could not follow them. Other Mexican and Native American beliefs held the roadrunner in high revere for their endurance, speed, courage and strength.
We often have roadrunners on the roof of our house either sunbathing or calling to protect their territory. If they are sunbathing, they sit with their backs to the sun, spread their wings and raise their feathers to expose their skin to the warming sun. If they are protecting their territory, which can be up to half a mile, we hear the haunting coo-cooo-cooooing sound they make. Roadrunners mate for life and both will protect their territory.
Although I have referred to the Greater Roadrunner as a desert species, their range is from the southwest into northern California. In that range you can find them from sea level up to elevations of 10,000 feet. They have expanded their range eastward into Louisiana and Missouri and are now making their homes in pine forests, red cedar and hardwood stands.
So, whether you came to love Greater Roadrunners because of the cartoons, their reverence held by native people, or a personal experience you may want to remind yourself of this special bird with a roadrunner hat, roadrunner socks (will they make you as fast as a roadrunner?) roadrunner nightlight or roadrunner sign.