SaddleBrooke Nature Club was just delighted to have Doris Evans return for the fifth time! Her informative and delightful presentation was about the Roadrunner.
Doris observed a Roadrunner carrying nesting materials across her driveway. Being a nature educator, Doris followed him/her and eventually located the nest. It was perfectly placed so Doris could observe and film weeks of activity from mating to building the nest to seeing the fledglings leave the nest.
Roadrunners are members of the Coo Coo family. In the United States we have just five members of the Coo Coo family. Here in Tucson our Roadrunner is the Greater Roadrunner. They are about 24” long including a 12” tail. The male cannot be distinguished from the female.
Close-up photographs show intricate detail on the head and wings. A beautiful design of rust, blue and white flesh is behind the eye. Adults have a gold ring around the eye.
Roadrunners are built to run. They can fly only short distances.
They make many sounds including a clacking sound and a coo coo call.
Roadrunners’ diet includes insects, lizards, baby birds and snakes.
When food is scarce they might eat berries or other plant material.
The nest in Doris’ yard had six eggs laid one every other day. There is an 18-day incubation period before the babies hatch every other day.
Male and female both sit on the nest. When the babies are born one parent is out hunting for lizards while the other sits on the nest. Feeding is constant. Doris had footage of tiny baby birds consuming large lizards which are dropped into their mouths head first. Members of the audience found humor in pictures of the baby birds with lizards’ tails hanging out of their mouths.
At 21 days the babies began leaving the nest one at a time. Mother bird was on the ground chirping her encouragement. She had a lizard to reward them for leaving the nest. The babies stayed in the area for a few days and the parents continued to feed them. When they leave the nest, the babies are three-fourths the size of an adult! (Why we never see what we would call a baby Roadrunner). If you observe closely, the babies can be distinguished from the adult by the absence of the gold eye ring.
After hearing many people talk of feeding Roadrunners hamburger, Doris did some research. Raw hamburger can carry bacteria that can cause death or deformity in baby birds. It is always best to let wild animals find their own food source. If you feel compelled to feed Roadrunners, frozen mice can be purchased locally.
Doris spent hours and hours observing her Roadrunner family. They became accustomed to her being close by so she was able to get amazing photos of their behavior.
There is still much to learn about Roadrunners. Doris’ educated observations and film tell us a lot about these amazing, sometimes comical birds.