Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My New Obsession

OK, so I am sorry if you are sick of hearing about roadrunners. .but here is another post including them.  Cami and I were out walking last Friday--and saw, not one, but TWO roadrunners in our path at the same time.  I took that to mean that the roadrunner(s) we have been seeing for nearly a year now (off and on) must live at our house somewhere.  Which caused me to wonder more about them--like where they live, how they nest, what they eat, etc.  Mind you, we googled them last winter when we saw the first one a couple times, to find out how to keep them around because they were so cool lookin'.  We found out they eat snakes and mice and that's all I remember.  I googled them again to get some more information--the results were fun to read--and I thought I might share some facts with you.
They can be found in my neck of the woods year round (barely)--we are at the very bottom of Kansas along the northern border of their usual territory. They prefer arid and semi arid conditions-we definitely qualify there!

They can be up to 24 inches long from their beak to the tip of the tail  and weigh between 8-24 oz.
They mostly prefer to walk or run but can fly if scared.  They can run up to 20 mph--not bad!
Plant material makes up about 10% of their diet--the rest is from insects, frogs, rodents, scorpions, snakes, and even other birds--including little birds innocently eating from backyard birdfeeders (gulp). They are fast enough to snatch a hummingbird or dragonfly out of the air.
They are one of the only things that can eat a rattlesnake before the snake eats them (great quality around here!!).  They do this by grabbing the snake's tail and flipping it's head against the ground multiple times until the snake is dead.  Because it generally eats it's food whole, the roadrunner ingests as much of the snake as will go down in one swallow.  The rest of the snake just hangs out of its mouth until there is room in its stomach to swallow a little more. Sometimes it takes two roadrunners to kill a really large snake (I'm so glad that they are equipped with man power enough to kill the big snakes at my house!)
He courts his girl by offering her choice bits of his food while he dances around her.  But get this. .he will TAUNT her, and only after he MATES her, will he actually SHARE the food with her. .can you spell
M-A-N-I-P-U-L-A-T-I-O-N?? And to top it off, he taunts her till she begs!! Glad I'm not a roadrunner--I would certainly starve!!
They gather materials for their nest together (usually small, thorny branches--go figure) but then the female builds the nest (probably so she can strategically place each thorn so he might find one when it is his turn to sit on the nest--usually at night. .in the dark. .HAHA-DON'T MESS WITH WOMEN!!)
She lays around 10 eggs over the course of several days. 
The first to hatch out, usually crowd the later arriving babies out of the nest.  These may be eaten by their parents (there are days that I truly envy this rite of parenthood in their culture!)
The baby birds usually fledge out of the nest after about 18 days. Then hang out for another couple of weeks with their parents before they move out totally.  This whole process usually happens in the spring/summer. So I am sure that I have missed any baby roadrunner opportunities this year. 
I am eager to see if I can locate their nest in our tree row.
Roadrunners can become prey for hawks, house cats, raccoons, skunks, and interestingly, bullsnakes and rat snakes. 

The roadrunners around our house have provided us with lots of entertainment this year.  My desire for more knowledge is now quenched and hopefully you enjoyed a little "lesson" on my NEW obsession!

(Pictures courtesy of internet sources)


  1. Our friend Ken is a bioligist with Ks Wildlife @ Pratt. He lives in the country up there, & has had a roadrunner at his house. He throws out chunks of deerburger to keep his roadrunner close to the house. Ken's specialty is the non-game wildlife in our area. And his roadrunner has been featured on a video done by fish & game on their website a while back. Really interesting! They are so curious! Tom has one that hangs around his shop, too. So much fun to watch them! Keep up the educational blogs...I love them!

  2. IF D and I were roadrunners, we could be childless!! hehehe
    Loved this post. Thanks for the morning laugh, and information!

  3. Beep, beep... They are fun to watch with their little legs scooting across the ground. Another fun creation of our amanzing God.

  4. I think your roadrunner posts are fun. You are on the edge of their territory for sure. I wondered how you had one hanging around. Must be that awesome wildlife habitat you've certified! Food waiting for space in their stomachs is gross. I'm going to stop thinking about that one. Haven't the males gotten the message that dinner comes first during a date. Love that they beat the rattle snakes until they can kill them but how do the other snakes get them. Too big? Too brown? There will need to be more road runner posts as you study them. :-)

  5. I'm really excited you shared about these funny birds. We have them too, and I now have a greater appreciation for them. Anything which kills a rattler and then eats it is my friend. I didn't realize you live so close either. I'm directly south of you.~~Dee

  6. I visited your blog really quickly this afternoon, but didn't have time to read the whole post so I came back! Glad I did, cause now I learned a little something. I cannot believe the mating habits of the male road runner!! omg! I guess that's hunger for ya otherwise you know those female roadrunners would not put up with that!! ha ha!! You have inspired me to write a post about all of the animals that hang out around my house. Stay tuned!

  7. Yes, those were some VERY interesting facts! I don't like that mating ritual at all. LOL We'll see a roadrunner around here once in awhile.

  8. LOL you're hilarious! And these birds are crazy! I love the image of a half-eaten snake hanging out of their mouths. I'm a bird nut so you just keep on posting. Seriously, how many people can post about their resident roadrunner?

  9. I too am obsessed with the Roadrunners around here. That was my mission when we moved back was to see an actual roadrunner! I finally did in the front yard of the nursing home and now we have one that lives at our house. We have seen him ON top of our house and on our back deck. He is so entertaining! Thanks for the info on our fun little birds! :-)