ARTISTS AND BIRDS
"Put a Smile on Your Face"
The Greater Roadrunner is the symbolic bird of the Red Cliffs Audubon Chapter. It is a bird on everyone’s list to see, from the youngest to the oldest birder. It’s large, showy, and makes you smile..... not just because of the Looney Toon cartoons of Road Runner & Wile E. Coyote. The Roadrunner walks rapidly about, running down prey, or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or even birds. Several times we’ve watched one catch a snake or lizard..... run to a lookout for observation, and then stop, with its prey swinging from the clutches of its bill. Roadrunners mainly feed on insects, small reptiles, rodents, tarantulas, scorpions, and small birds. Although capable of flight, they spend most of their time on the ground, and can run at speeds of 18.6 miles per hour. The desert dwelling Roadrunner is able to get along without drinking water if it eats food with high enough water content, but it will drink water readily if it is available. The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It nests on a platform of sticks low in cactus or a bush.
Speaking of cactus, one fine spring day near Lytle Preserve, we saw a Roadrunner perched on top a Giant Joshua with a lizard in its bill. As we watched through our binoculars, he put the lizard captive under his feet and began to sing a really weird song that sounded like someone’s motor running out of power. Yep, he made us laugh. We’ve watched Roadrunners fly to rooftops, and check every nook and cranny in search of food. We’ve seen lizards just out of hibernation, warming their sleepy bodies on sunny cement areas, end up as a buffet feast for Roadrunners making their daily hunt. The Roadrunner is a wise old bird, knowing just where to go to get a meal.
I was told that stories have been handed down and retold by the Hopi and Pueblo Indian Tribes that the Roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. After hearing their terribly weird song, and seeing how smart, mentally alert, and resourceful they are, I think they could surely drive evil spirits away.
As our desert landscapes are settled by people, Roadrunner numbers decrease with the increase of cats and the decrease of its natural prey. Hopefully there will always be wild areas around and near St. George where this wily and colorful hunter can continue to roam in this spectacular desert country. If you would like to encounter a Greater Roadrunner, visit the Tonaquint Nature Center, the open fields of Washington, Santa Clara, Hurricane, or along Highway 91 going to Lytle Preserve. They are seen quite regularly. If you do I hope they make you smile.
Once more, Brenda Rusnell is our artist. Thank you Brenda for the fine rendition of the Greater Roadrunner. Coming Up: Guest speaker at the next Red Cliffs General Meeting, May 14, is Cordell Petersen, speaking about "Owls, All Around Us". For more information about birds, Owl presentation, or Red Cliffs Audubon Field Trip to Grafton, call Marilyn Davis 435 673-0996.