Tag Archives: roadrunner

The Roadrunner Returns


Remember the roadrunner that hopped up on my side mirror one morning? It came back!

It was early evening. The sun was still out, but the temperature had dropped a bit and my van cast a big shadow. I had my table set up in a shady spot in the back of my campsite, and I was cooking dinner.

I saw movement in my peripheral vision and turned my head to investigate. The roadrunner was on the ground, strolling, in no hurry at all. I froze and watched it.

Close Up Photography Roadrunner at the Top of Red Surface during Daytime

(I’m not 100% sure it was the same roadrunner, but it seemed to be the same size and color. According to http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/greater_roadrunner_facts/465/, the

[g]reater roadrunner is territorial animal…

which lends credence to my idea that it was the same bird I’d seen before.)

The roadrunner was close enough for me to see it very well, especially when it stopped moving. I could see the iridescence of its long tail feathers. I could see the crest of feathers on the top of its head move up and down. (Was the bird trying to communicate with me? If so, I missed the message.)

While I observed the bird, it picked up one of its legs and used its foot to scratch where its ear would be if it had external ear parts. The bird scratched its “ear” like a dog would. I was delighted! I’ve never seen another bird do such a thing. Is that a normal thing for a bird to do? Is that specifically a roadrunner move?

The bird didn’t seem worried or frightened. I wonder if it were as interested in me as I was in it.

As I stood watching it, the roadrunner turned its back to me. I thought it was going to walk away, but instead, it lifted its wings away from its body. It looked sort of puffed up. I could see the downy feathers on its body. Those feathers were being fluffed by the wind. I could see its skin in patches not covered by feathers. The bird stood with its wings lifted for what seemed like a long time before it walked away.

I wondered if it were trying to make itself look bigger in hopes of intimidating me. It seemed odd to me that an animal’s act of aggression would involve turning its back on a possible threat.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadrunner,

To warm itself during the day, the roadrunner exposes dark patches of skin on its back to the sun.

The Hill Country Naturalist says that to warm itself,

[t]he roadrunner turns its back to the sun and fluffs out its feathers, using its black skin to absorb the warmth.

So that’s what it was doing! The roadrunner was feeling chilly and was trying to get warm. Its behavior had nothing to do with me.

When the roadrunner walked away, I went over to the van and sat in the open side doors to eat my dinner. As I sat there, the bird came back! It stood about three steps away from me, parallel to the van and calmly regarded me. I thought I should grab my camera, but I was worried my movements would scare off the critter. I decided I’d rather look at it and not risk spooking it while fumbling around.

When the bird grew tired of looking at me, it walked a few more steps away from me, toward some creosote bushes. It stopped, turned its back, and commenced its wing flapping. Then it disappeared into the bushes, not to be seen again.

When I told the Lady of the House about the return of the roadrunner, she said maybe it was my new spirit guide. I’ve been pretty happy with the sloth as my spirit guide, but there’s not much I can do if the roadrunner has chosen me.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photography-roadrunner-at-the-top-of-red-surface-during-daytime-158097/.

Beep! Beep!


Growing up in the Deep South, there was a lot I wasn’t taught about the Southwest.

For example, I wasn’t taught that the saguaro cactus is IMG_4558

found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert.

[The cactus is found] in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico. A few stray plants can also be found in southeast California.

(Thanks to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for the info.)

I grew up thinking all cacti (I did know the plural of cactus was not cactuses) were pretty much that same and all cacti  grew in all deserts. WRONG!

Nor did I know much about the roadrunner. Oh sure, I saw the cartoon Road Runner on Saturday mornings, but I didn’t necessarily believe a roadrunner was a real creature. I saw Bugs Bunny too, but I knew rabbits couldn’t talk (much less sing opera), so while I might believe there was a bird called a roadrunner out in the big world, I was pretty sure it was nothing like the one on television.

I was right about that.

I didn’t see a real live roadrunner until I was an adult. I was so excited when it ran across the road, I bounced up and down in my seat and squealed.

Of course, the cartoon Road Runner looks a lot different from a real, live roadrunner. Real roadrunners are mostly brown, while the cartoon Road Runner is decked out in shades of blue. The cartoon Road Runner is much taller than a real roadrunner, and the decorative feather flop on the top of the cartoon’s head is much bigger than anything a real roadrunner has going on.

But still, when I saw the real roadrunner hurrying across the highway, I knew exactly what it was.

According to the All About Birds website

A bird born to run, the Greater Roadrunner can outrace a human, kill a rattlesnake, and thrive in the harsh landscapes of the Desert Southwest. 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. As they run, they hold their lean frames nearly parallel to the ground and rudder with their long tails. They have recently extended their range eastward into Missouri and Louisiana.

WHAT?!?!?!? Roadrunners in Missouri and Louisiana? THAT is exciting, but how is a desert bird going to adapt to all the humidity?

Not too long ago, I woke up with the sun. It had been hot out, and there weren’t many other people around, so I hadn’t hung my side curtain when I went to bed. The lack of curtain helped with airflow, but when the sun rose at 5:45, there was a lot of light in my face.

I was looking at Facebook on my phone and hadn’t even put my glasses on when I heard a thump on the van. I looked up and saw…something…standing on my side mirror. My vision is very poor, and I can’t see much past the end of my nose without my specs. (Yeah, I’d been holding the phone close to my nose.) I suspected it was a bird on the mirror, but I wasn’t sure. Maybe it was some kind of super jumping desert squirrel that had leapt up there.

I reached out for my glasses, thinking my movement would scare of the critter. Nope. The critter didn’t go anywhere. I got the spectacles on my face and saw a roadrunner on my mirror. A big roadrunner. A roadrunner with a tail as long as (maybe longer than) its whole body. It turned around a few times on the mirror, so I got a good look at it from all angles. Then it flew up to the roof of my van, where I heard it thump a couple of times as it walked around. When all was silent, I knew the bird had flown away.

If I’d been in a cartoon, an anvil or a safe would have crushed my van. Thank goodness I’m living in the real world.

Since I didn’t get a photo of the roadrunner, I’ll post one of a saguaro in bloom. I took the two photos of the saguaros.