2. Roadrunners

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT


Did a roadrunner just cross your path? They are a common sight in the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden. As omnivores, roadrunners like to feed on cacti fruits and seeds as well as grasshoppers, lizards, and crickets. They are easy to miss because they sprint, rather than fly, from one hiding spot to the next at high speeds. In fact, the roadrunner is so fast, it is one of the few birds that prey upon rattlesnakes.

FUN FACTS:

  • Sometimes, two roadrunners work together to kill a larger snake.
  • Roadrunners are also called earth-cuckoos, chaparral cocks, snake killers, and ground cuckoos. While they are generally solitary birds or are found in pairs, a flock of roadrunners can be called a marathon or race.
  • Roadrunners run up to 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour), but can have sprints up to 26 mph (42 kph). This is the fastest running speed for any bird that can also fly. While running, roadrunners use their long tails for steering, balancing, and braking.
  • As terrestrial birds, roadrunners are powerful on the ground, but weaker in the air and typically fly in low, short, awkward glides. Whenever possible, they prefer to walk or run rather than take flight.
  • Roadrunners are primarily carnivorous and take whatever prey they can catch, including snakes, frogs, scorpions, dragonflies, tarantulas, mice, and lizards. They will even use their powerful legs to jump to catch hummingbirds and bats. Roadrunners will eat carrion, and when prey is scarce in the winter, they also eat some cactus fruits and berries.
  • Roadrunners mate for life and renew bonds each spring with courtship dancing, calls, chases, and sharing food. When they are ready to breed, males bring nesting materials such as twigs, leaves, grass, snakeskin, and bits of dung to their partners, and the female will build the broad, platform nest.
  • The most famous roadrunner is the Road Runner (two words) created by Chuck Jones in 1948 for Warner Bros. The bird first debuted with his nemesis Wile E. Coyote in 1949, and has appeared in numerous cartoons, comics, commercials, and video games, as well as the movies Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Space Jam. The cartoon bird bears little resemblance to wild roadrunners, however, and in fact, coyotes often do catch and eat roadrunners, though Wile E. Coyote never did.