Roadrunners

roadrunner

Don Sorchych, my viewRecently we cleared about 30 feet on the east side of our house where Shari Jo keeps one of her four oases. That location seems to quench the thirst for many species of wildlife. The biggest are mule deer, javelina, bobcats and coyotes. Then there are gophers, rabbits and squirrels. Birds are everywhere especially Gambel’s quail, doves, woodpeckers and our wonderful roadrunners.

If you look up roadrunners online you will find many mentions of Walt Disney, who popularized them as a cartoon character.

For about 14 years now Shari Jo and I have tried to view roadrunner nests with babies with no success. We have seen pictures online but none here.

One friend who usually works outside on his property has succeeded in feeding bits of hamburgers to three roadrunners, one of them with only one leg. He has come to the realization they are becoming welfare birds.

A former Sonoran News employee also trained a roadrunner to eat hamburger from her fingers. It would go from window to window until it located her and her husband and then peck at them.

roadrunnerRoadrunners are monogamous and choose a partner for life. We have been fortunate one pair chose to live near our home.

In years past the male would come on the porch on the north side of the house and see himself in the reflective coating on the patio glass. He would fight the imaginary bird running back and forth and jump up onto the other bird. The glass is all scratched up from his battles. Very territorial!

Eventually, Shari Jo saw something not many folks get to see. The male approached the female with a snake in his mouth, placed it her mouth and then mated her. Sometimes the food gift is hers to eat and other times they share the food. In this case, she left with the food in her mouth.

In the spring we hear a five to seven note call that is repeated exactly over and over again by a roadrunner that sits on the roof near a chimney on the north side of the house. It sounds as though it is in the room!

roadrunnerThe clattering or clacking noise they make by rolling/rubbing their mandibles together is often the signal they are around. It is our call to search the area for an opportunity for a viewing session.

Finally, within the last few days we had a breakthrough in our newly manicured yard. We saw an adult roadrunner in the company of a roadrunner half the size of the adult. The smaller bird stayed as close to the adult as it would allow. The smaller bird seemed to be deferential but persistent. It seemed to be talking to its stoic parent. The little bird flapped its wings and pecked at the beak of the bigger bird. They sat on a large volcanic rock and then the young one circled until the bigger bird tiring of being hassled and jumped down, with the small bird following. This dance went on for about a half hour.

The next day we were sitting at the breakfast table when the two appeared with another young one on the porch railing in plain view. The little birds’ wings where flapping at high speed and they pecked the big bird’s neck and beak. The adult showed them how to sharpen their beaks, although they continued their antics. Are they telling their dad they are hungry?

We thought so and research confirmed our supposition.

The dance continued for a long time but it was clear the parent bird tired of the attention and it finally left the little birds and flew down to the cool deck.

One little bird followed the parent bird with its wings flapping furiously. This continued for maybe 15 minutes and again tiring of attention the big one jumped up on the wall followed by the little ones and they disappeared from sight. That afternoon we again saw an adult and one baby in their dance.

The mother is out every day late in the afternoon by herself. She drinks, grooms herself and then goes off toward where we think they are nesting or perhaps hunting. She has a striking orange bar on her crest that she turns to white – how I do not know.

Since that time we have seen both adults but no babies. we hope and pray their hunting training sessions progress and they can stop begging. But before that happens we hope to capture their interesting interplay on video and publish it for you on our website.

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