road runners

Meet Your Neighbors

Can’t forget about roadrunners, another species of full-time desert dwellers. Forget what you think you know from the cartoon series. Roadrunners can make about 7 different calls, mostly coo-ing, but “beep beep” is not one of them. The Road Runner always outsmarted and outran Wile E. Coyote, but in fact, coyotes can run over 40 mph, while roadrunners clock in around 20 mph. Not much for flying, their short wings can only keep their body airborne for a few seconds at a time.

Like quail, they mate for life. Unlike quail, they don’t tend to continually “hang” with their mate except for breeding and raising their babies. Both male and female work together gathering materials to make a nest, placing it on a branch or cactus a few feet off the ground. Male body temp is warmer, so they are in charge of incubating the eggs.

Roadrunners have a distinctive x-shaped footprint, with 2 toes pointing forward and 2 backward. As the state bird of New Mexico, their footprints are regarded by Native Americans as sacred symbols to ward off evil. The x-shape disguises the direction the bird is heading, and is thought to prevent evil spirits from following.

Eating mostly small animals and insects, roadrunners have been known to even kill and eat rattlesnakes. But since lizards are in great supply during all the warm months in our desert, this would appear to be their preference.

Roadrunners enjoy perching high to bask in the sun after a cool night in the desert. They blanket themselves in their feathers to become rather undistinguishable. Maybe you have seen them sunbathing in your windowsill.