Road Runners

With the stars, the weather, the reptiles, and the creatures of the underwater reefs all getting regular airtime on the Ventana View, I think that it is only fair that our feathered friends get some attention too. And I cannot think of a better subject to start with than the greater roadrunner! Believe me, they look nothing like that bird (Beep Beep!) featured in the long-running Warner Brothers cartoon series! In fact, they look a lot like a highly emaciated light brown chicken with a long skinny tail! Roadrunners reach two feet from sturdy bill to white tail tip, with a bushy blue-black crest and mottled plumage that blends well with dusty shrubs. While they occasionally take flight for short distances, boy, can they run! They have been clocked at speeds up to 26 miles per hour or 42 kilometers an hour, the fastest on record for any flying species on the planet. When they run, they place their head and tail parallel to the ground and use their tail as a rudder to help change direction. While we have had them the odd time showing up briefly in our backyard here in the Baja, I have not yet found a way to entice the little rascals with food. However, I do know they like human chow because I saw one hanging around a wee fast-food tent where the cook was throwing out scraps near the Cabo airport. These monogamous birds lay three to six eggs in thorny platform nests lined with everything from grasses to feathers to snakeskins. And yes, roadrunners do kill and eat rattlesnakes (sorry, Chance!). They usually work in pairs with one distracting the serpent while the second bird moves in for the kill. Their scaly legs and feather coat make it hard for the snakes to land any bites. However, roadrunners mainly subsist on a diet of insects, spiders, lizards, and any other small creatures they can catch. The oldest roadrunner on record to date made it to seven years old, but I suspect that they can live longer than that. They are one of my favourite birds down here in Mexico, always giving me a thrill when they dart across the road in front of me.