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Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), the Iconic Hill Country Cuckoo, Part Two

By Patsy Glenn

Photograph 2000, Greg W. Lasley

Although roadrunners are often found in desert areas and can  survive for long periods with little to no available water (they apparently get enough moisture from the lizards and other food that they eat), they certainly will take advantage of water when it is available.

Venomous dietary delights...
Roadrunners prefer a 90 percent meat diet. Watching them eat can be enlightening. Spiders, scorpions, insects, rodents, small perching birds and lizards are favorites.

But Greater Roadrunners are also so quick and agile they can stab a venomous snake in the head, then grab the squirming reptile in their beak and thrash it to death on the ground. This procedure happened to a lizard friend behind our house! Roadrunner beaks are sharp. My husband, Dave, watched our local hilltop resident honing his to a fine point on our concrete drive one day. A bit of fruit, cactus, and seeds complete the roadrunner's gourmet diet.

Eggs are 1.5 inches
Photograph Gregory Gough

Dad has a big role in incubating the three to five chalky yellowish eggs Mom lays. He has the night duty. For while the female's body temperature may drop to 33 degrees Celsius to save energy, Dad stays warm at night. It's also "Pop" who puts on a big brave display to distract anything about to prey on their near-fledgling chicks. He's invested a lot of time in these chicks and knows at twenty-one days they will be catching their own food.

Nests are built of sticks enhanced by snakeskin, mesquite pods, roots and manure flakes. Usually they are found low and platform-like in a tree with little protection.

Go back to Roadrunners, Part One

Title Photograph 2000, Greg W.  Lasley



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