Anyone who grew up with Looney Tunes cartoons may be surprised that Roadrunners are not long-necked or purple crowns, but roadrunners and coyotes occasionally make car chases. Here are some facts about these unusual desert birds.
. 1 Roadrunners belong to the cuckoo family.
The larger Roadrunner ( Geococcyx californianus ), which occurs in deserts, meadows and forests, crosses through the southwestern US and northern Mexico. His somewhat smaller relative, the smaller Roadrunner ( Geococcyx velox ), is generally further south. Both birds belong to the cuckoo family, Cuculidae which also includes anise and malkohas. All members of the family have zygodactylus feet with two forward and two backward toes. The arrangement gives the Roadrunners X-shaped prints.
. 2 Roadrunners are fast ̵
1; but coyotes are faster.
According to The Real Roadrunner by Martha Anne Maxon, scientists have clocked fast birds at a speed of 15 to 20 miles per hour. Coyotes can run twice as fast as the fastest road runners, but fortunately for the birds, coyotes would also feed small rodents, plants and lizards instead of birds.
. 3 Flying is not the strength of the Roadrunner.
Roadrunners walk around most of the time, but flying is also an option. Roadrunners sometimes glide from branches or canyon rims to the ground, but are limited to short-haul flights as their wings are weak and their muscular legs complain. In order to get into the air, they usually need a start.
. 4 Lizards, seeds and hummingbirds are on the Roadrunner menu.
Opportunistic and omnivorous eat Roadrunner seeds, cactus fruits, snails, snakes, lizards, insects, arachnids and rodents. Smaller birds are also fair game. Roadrunners sometimes lurk around birdseed and snap songbirds in the air with a big jump. Wildlife photographer Roy Dunn recently filmed a roadrunner who caught a hummingbird on his bird feeder.
. 5 Roadrunners can outmaneuver distinctive rattlesnakes.
Roadrunners are not afraid of venomous rattlesnakes – they even find them tasty. But patience is needed on the hunt. When the two animals meet, the Roadrunner fans their wings, making the bird look bigger and more threatening. As the snake strikes, the Roadrunner jumps nimbly out of the way. This happens again and again, until the bird, who has learned the routine of the snake, grabs it in the middle of the blow at the back of the head. Then the Roadrunner hits the snake on the ground until it is suppressed or dead. Since they have no claws and their beaks are not equipped to rip meat, Roadrunners swallow whole snakes.
. 6 Puebloan peoples believe that Roadrunners fend off dangerous spirits.
Roadrunners are considered protective among puebloans in the southwestern United States. It was believed that the X would protect them from evil spirits: malevolent beings would be confused because they could not see in which direction the Roadrunner who had left the "footprints" had gone. Similarly, Roadrunner springs have been placed over cradles to protect the babies inside.
. 7 Roadrunners do not say "bleep! Beep!
Male Roadrunners make cooing noises as they court women and defend territories. Both sexes also use barks and growls to communicate – and for some unknown reason Roadrunners like to make a long series of clicks by snapping their beaks. The clicks may be a message about the area or a signal to relay the location to others.
. 8 Larger Roadrunners team up to defend their territory.
The monogamous are larger roadrunners who sometimes mate for life. To uphold the relationship, men regularly dance for their partners. They also offer food and materials that can be used in nest building. Both parents alternately breed their eggs laid in catches of two to six, and later share the duties as chick holders. The defense of the local lawn is another task that they carry out together. A single pair of roadrunners can cover a huge area of up to 250 acres.
. 9 Roadrunners can save energy by lowering their body temperature.
Roadrunners do not migrate. On cold nights, the birds lower their own body temperatures by 15 ° F, which means they can use less energy. To warm themselves up, the birds like to bask in the early morning [PDF]. They even lift their feathers to expose their skin directly to the warming rays of the sun.
10 The Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico.
The larger Roadrunner was formally elected the State Bird of the Land of Enchantment on March 16, 1949. Since then, the anti-waste organization Keep New Mexico Beautiful, Inc. has adopted an anthropomorphic roadrunner named Dusty as a mascot.