The roadrunner is a member of the cuckoo family and has a clacking sort of call. They're good sized - around 22 inches from beak to tail. It's streaked in brown, black, and white--perfectly camouflaged to perform acts of violence against smaller critters. They're not particularly picky about their cuisine and will feast on bugs, small mammals, reptiles, and cactus fruits. It's true they're great runners--up to 20 mph, and really prefer not to fly. It's unusual to see them in the air unless they're escaping the grill of a motor vehicle or a predator like the red tail hawks that frequent our area. Not every roadrunner escapes the moving car or truck as evidenced by flattened birds every so often on the asphalt. They don't always escape the hawk either. We saw a large raptor capture one in his talons in the middle of the road while the terrified mate looked on from the shoulder. The law of survival is rough and a little disturbing sometimes.
Roadrunners do enjoy a panoramic view occasionally because I've seen them hop from the courtyard wall and flutter to the patio roof, then scramble and half fly to the roof peak to take a look around. They're clever and quick in chasing down lizards, gulping them down usually headfirst. Just as I was developing an affection for a small speckled ground squirrel that played in the shadow of small mesquites one summer, a hungry roadrunner rushed through and ran off with him. The poor little thing dangled helplessly from his beak. It was a grim scene.
There haven't been any sights of coyotes and roadrunners mixing it up so far, but you never know. They are monogamous and the pair that frequents our property has been been around for several years. They keep the snake population down, so despite their proclivities to carry off cute, furry prey, they perform a service for which I'm grateful. Snake control is much more important on my list and Mr. and Mrs. Roadrunner are welcome to continue their residence in the mesquite thicket out front.
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