By Greg Dunne
April 22, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – The roadrunner is one tough bird. Each spring all the songbirds get talked about and noticed--maybe deservedly so, calling attention to themselves with their singing and their beautiful colors. But the roadrunner is out and about this spring as well and certainly deserves to be talked about.
The roadrunner knows very well these next “facts” come courtesy of the Looney Tunes cartoons from the ‘60s. Roadrunner, coyote is after you. Roadrunner, if he catches you, you are through. The reality is that the Coyote can run faster (roadrunner 20 mph v. coyote 43 mph) – but the roadrunner is virtually never caught because of its maneuverability to zig-zag and take short flight if need be to escape. So, most predators that might make a meal of the roadrunner will usually look elsewhere for food as to not waste valuable energy on chasing the roadrunner.
If you see him on the trail, get your camera out fast as it won’t be long until he’s gone! The Roadrunner is out this spring on top of large rocks and fence posts calling out their territory, and both members of the family defend the territory – which can measure up to a half-mile in diameter. Roadrunners mate for life. The courtship is quite spectacular, dancing and food sharing conducted by both partners, and is renewed each year.
The roadrunner is a fast and an accurate hunter. They’ll eat just about anything they can catch. Insects, rodents, small birds, lizards and snakes. I believe their favorite food are lizards and snakes, even rattlesnakes. This is the time of year when reptiles emerge from their cold sleep and the roadrunners are happy to see the food source. When a rattlesnake is caught, the roadrunner will thrash the snake on a rock while holding it in its beak until the snake is not moving anymore and then will swallow it whole.
The roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo family. The Latin name means “California earth-cuckoo.” It’s found in the Southwestern United States and Mexico, and most likely crosses the U.S. – Mexican border undetected by Border Patrol! It’s the fastest land bird that can fly. The roadrunner’s life span is about 7-8 years. It’s the state bird of New Mexico. The roadrunner is definatly part of our social consciousness mainly because of the Looney Tunes of the 60’s. Beep-beep!