Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beep, Beep!

Peek-a-Boo, I see you.

In all the years I've lived in Texas (22 in case you're wondering), I've only seen a handful of roadrunners.
This fall, I've seen one at least once a day. Most days I see more than one.
The roadrunner seems to be the only animal that thrived in the summers blistering temperatures and lack of rain.

Lee and I have wondered aloud more than once about why this might be.
Why are there suddenly more roadrunners after all these years?
Because I'm a biology nerd, I did some research on the subject.

Roadrunners build a stick and grass nest, 3-10 feet off the ground in brushy trees or cactus. The female lays 3-6 eggs.

Hypothesis: I didn't see one snake all summer. Maybe the heat kept their numbers down, thus keeping the snakes from raiding the runner's nest for eggs/nestlings?

Roadrunner pairs take turns sitting the nest over a 20 day period. The male always sits the nest at night, as his body temperature doesn't fluctuate. Hers goes up and down significantly with the ambient temperature.

Hypothesis: With our nighttime temperatures barely getting below 90* for most of the summer, Mr. Runner didn't expend so much energy keeping eggs warm. Maybe this allowed him to have better overall health/stamina for when the chicks hatched? Mrs. Runner doesn't have to wait so long in the morning to warm up and get moving to feed the chicks?

Once the chicks hatch, they are taken care of by both parents. Their food sources are insects, small rodents, lizards, and the occasional bite of road kill.
Honestly, about the only insects that I saw all summer were things with exoskeletons. Grasshoppers didn't mind the summer weather one bit. Lizards did pretty well, too. Because of the high fire danger, the Dept. of Transportation kept the grass beside the roads cut very short. So did those of us with property.

Hypothesis: Maybe the shorter grass made it much easier for the runners to locate grasshoppers and other insects to feed their chicks??

Photo credit: http://mirror-pole.com/collpage/roadrunr/roadrun1.htm

No matter what the reason there are more of them, I'm thrilled to be able to watch these funny birds more closely. The one in the pictures was very interested in me while I was working outdoors yesterday. He/She (no way to tell them apart) would look for a snack, eat, and watch me. When I moved to empty the wheelbarrow, it would follow along.
When I finally went inside for the camera, it suddenly became shy and I had to use the telephoto lens to get the pictures.


  1. The ONLY time I ever saw a roadrunner was on a visit to Arizona. Nothing at all like that in this cold country. Laughed to learn that(like people)the male doesn't get cold as quickly as the female. Wonder if she warms her feet on him at night? Of course I also wondered if Wylie Coyote finally blew himself up or didn't get up from one of those falls off a cliff.

    Thanks for the info. Love bird nerd stuff.

  2. Lucky you! Interestingly, we saw fewer roadrunners this year than in past years... maybe all of ours went east? :)

  3. Excellent observations. I actually saw one a couple days ago and they are around but not in numbers and it's very cool to see them This one was gliding and no good pictures. I did see him on the ground too. The second one I've seen in several years but now I live here. This is 40 miles south of Pueblo,CO.

  4. Funny little guys.
    I love how in tune you are with the patterns (and changes) in your environment.

  5. That is really neat! All the years visiting Texas I never got to see a roadrunner! WAY COOL! BEEP BEEP!