Roadrunner the warrior bird

Cautious but never afraid - the Roadrunner

No wonder it fell to the roadrunner to face off with Wylie Coyote. Comic, daring and sometimes even brutal, the roadrunner is not your average bird. Slender and dramatic he is all speed and flash, as he cocks his long tail and ruffs his shaggy crest of head feathers. In great bursts of speed he runs down lizards, insects and snakes. He jumps straight in the air to snatch birds and flying insects. Even the occasional rodent may fall prey to a swift blow to the neck from the powerful beak of roadrunner. Reptiles are likely to be beaten to death, bashed repeatedly on rocky ground. Even rattlesnake is on the roadrunner’s menu. The crafty bird mesmerizes the rattlesnake with the tips of its wings, casting them about to confuse the snake. Two of the birds will also work together to bring down a rattler. This feathered warrior was thought by some Pueblo tribes to provide protection from evil spirits.
A roadrunner dashed across the road in front of my car at South Mountain Park. He lingered just beyond viewing range, tauntingly. This is not the scatter and run behavior you see with quail, or the panicked flush of a surprised dove. Roadrunner is cautious but never afraid. The largest member of the cuckoo family is also zygodactyls, meaning two toes point forward and two backward.
The birds build nest platforms in cactus and low tree branches. The nests are built with thorny sticks and lined with leaves, grass, feathers and snakeskin. They may be up to a foot in diameter. Three to six eggs are laid and both parents care for the young. Some of the most vulnerable chicks may become food for the rest if food is scarce.


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