Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner Male At Top - Female At Bottom


The Greater Roadrunner

I grew up in a house not even five miles from where I now sit, and I've lived the greatest majority of my life in this very area of what is considered Kaufman, Texas. Facts are that I'm well outside of town, but that doesn't change the mailing address. When the family moved here, a bit further outside of town, I first noticed our neighbor, actually, it's a squatter, and it lives along our driveway somewhere, and is often in our large front yard; a Greater Roadrunner.

I'm positive that I'd never seen one of these birds before, despite growing up only a few miles away. I'd never been much of a bird watcher, but now we've bird houses and bird feeders all over the place, but those are for the "pretty" birds, and I'm told that nearly all other species of bird despise the Greater Roadrunner. I like him or her just fine though, and I think that you should too.

Now, perhaps you don't much care for me calling this bird the "Greater" Roadrunner, but I assure you that that is it's proper name. It's true that I'd hate to be called the "Lesser" Roadrunner, but that is the proper name of The Greater Roadrunner's cousin. I certainly can't agree with calling my front yard friend a "Californian Earth-cuckoo," but that is another name for it, despite the fact that I live hell and gone from California, and in East Texas.

Distribution of The Greater Roadrunner


Snake Killer

This bird is quite a killer, and is sometimes called "The Snake Killer," and if I've not just ignited an interest in you in having your own front yard Greater Roadrunner, then you're probably just weird. I think that the famous cartoons featuring everyone's favorite long suffering coyote, which are depicted as taking place in a more desert like climate, misleads folks into thinking that this bird wouldn't be found here among the Oak and Mesquite groves, the Pecans, and even into the Pines. The Greater Roadrunner is found from most of California, and all the way East up into Arkansas. Of course we citizens of the United States don't get to hoard our Greater Roadrunners. The bird is found throughout most of Mexico as well.

We've a fairly long driveway, and often when coming or going, the Greater Roadrunner that lives in the front yard will love to show us that he or she is there, you can picture the twitching of the long tail feathers, and practically hear it go "beep beep," (or is it "meep meep?") as it crosses the drive in front of us. With the ability to run as fast as 26 miles per hour, this bird is in no danger from us, and nobody had best come down our drive so fast as to endanger it either. There are neighbors, but the Greater Roadrunner seems to love the Shaw family much more than any of them, and well it should. I've found estimates that place the running speed of the Greater Roadrunner at a much slower 17 miles per hour. I guess there is some debate here. These birds do not migrate, and it shouldn't be thought that they can not fly. They can fly, but they very much prefer not to, and they can't fly a very long ways.

Besides the fact that the Greater Roadrunner feeds on snakes, it's also fond of eating stinging scorpions. Now, I don't know about you, or where you live - but if you've ever been stung by a scorpion, then I can assure you that you'll bless the site of this, the largest bird of the cuckoo family; and you too will want one living in your front yard. I can't give any advice as to how you can get one to come live in your yard, it's just one of the small blessings bestowed upon such as I. I'll take what I can get.

Back to the snake killing - you can see from the pictures the tremendously sharp beak that the Greater Roadrunner has, and you can see how snakes, other small lizards, and even small mammals could easily fall prey to such a weapon. It's said that two Greater Roadrunners will work together in order to kill a large snake. This is teamwork, and two beaks are better than one.

Though the Greater Roadrunner is a predatory bird, and even kills other birds for food - The Greater Roadrunner is not without predators of it's own. Dogs, skunks, coyotes, and raccoons will sometimes catch and kill these birds for food. The Greater Roadrunner is also sometimes the prey of the Winter's chill. After the harsh Texas Winter of 2010/2011, I'm delighted to see that it hadn't got cold enough to kill our front yard squatters.

The Largest Cuckoo

The Cuckoo Family of birds are rather controversial. I'm not nearly enough of a biologist to get into all of that controversy, and there are many different levels and kinds of controversy involving Cuckoo family birds. In folklore, the Cuckoo's are renowned for being nest parasites, meaning that they'll lay their eggs in other bird's nests, and have someone else raise their offspring. You can see how this term bled over into humanity, and that someone being named a "Cuckold" is not a pleasant thing at all. The Greater Roadrunner, however is NOT a brood or nest parasite, and raises it's own young.

The courtship of The Greater Roadrunner is rather romantic, as the male will try to seduce the female with bits of dead lizard or snake dangling from his beak. If the female accepts the offered meal, then she's consented to sex. Dating done right. There is another avenue, however, and it involves the male shaking HIS tale feathers in HER face whilst making all sorts of crooning noises. I suppose the Greater Roadrunner must have been an Elvis Presley fan. Often times, the Greater Roadrunner pairs will mate for life.

When it comes to nest building, both members of the pair are involved. The male will collect the nest materials, and the female will arrange them just where she thinks that they ought to be. Sound familiar? Also, both parents take on the burden of feeding the young, and they will often continue feeding their young after the chicks have left home. This is starting to sound all too close to home. Perhaps I'm actually a Greater Roadrunner. There is now no question as to why I've got such a front yard squatter. The greater roadrunners obviously belong here.


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