For Valentine’s Day the folks at Enature have contributed a mating game for we humans to discover which members of the other species our romantic behavior most closely emulates. Play their Mating Game and discover for yourself. However, even if you turn out not to resemble a bird romantically, be sure to click on the bird species descriptions. There you will learn, for instance , that the male Greater Roadrunner dangles a tasty food morsel – a mouse, say – in front of his intended but won’t let her have it until after they’ve mated. Or that Sandhill Cranes, which mate for life, go through elaborate courtship rituals when young. They dance, display, hop, flap, and strut. But after many years together, they simply jump up and down a couple of times before mating.
Posts Tagged ‘roadrunner’
This winter brought us a new roadrunner visitor. He or she exhibits many of the same traits as our old friend Chuck. Long-time readers will remember Chuck, the injured roadrunner who we kept in mice for some time before he disappeared. (For the full story of Chuck, go to “Categories” on the lower right of this page and select the “Roadrunner” category.) Enough time has elapsed since Chuck’s disappearance for this new roadrunner to be a grandchild. Certainly this bird seemed to know that if he sat on our fence long enough mice would appear for his dining pleasure. That raises the question whether genes develop memory over the short span of a single life. Could Chuck have passed on the knowledge that this yard was a good place to stop by in the winter for supplemental food through his genes?
We don’t know the answer but we thought you would like to see a portrait of our latest roadrunner passer-by whom we like to think is a grandchild of an old friend.
Long-time readers may remember Chuck, the Greater Roadrunner that shared his life with us. Chuck started visiting us three years ago but two years ago, when he broke half his bottom beak off, he did more than just visit. Before his beak injury, we had supplemented his diet with small bits of hamburger and an occasional grasshopper, but, after his disaster, we became, as least as far as we knew, his sole source of food. Because he could not have survived on hamburger alone, we started buying frozen mice and giving him thawed mice every day plus whatever bugs, lizards, etc. we could catch. (Roadrunners are much better at catching small, fast bugs and animals than are humans.)
That worked for a year or more, during which time he sired two baby roadrunners.
But he’s gone now. We haven’t seen him since last spring and know he could not have survived with his beak in the condition it was.
But this week, a new roadrunner arrived. Because of his behavior, we’re rather certain that this is either Son of Chuck or Daughter of Chuck. He, or she, seems to know the drill. He sits on the fence in the same place Chuck used to while waiting for a human supplied snack, seems relatively unafraid of us, and appears as soon as we go outside and begin talking. And he likes hamburger, as did his father.
Apparently we kept Chuck alive long enough for him to leave behind offspring to grace us with its company. It was the finest gift Chuck could have given us.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our readers.
Nature is abundant. As an eloquent friend says, it is “wildly resilient.” Or as they used to say in France, “The King is dead! Long live the King!” (Later, they got rid of the King so the metaphor only goes so far. Political systems don’t last as long as evolution.)
We lost a baby roadrunner last week. Yesterday, Nature brought us another. We don’t mean “us” in the parochial sense. Nature brought the world, of which we are all a part, another roadrunner because evolution requires abundance of all life forms and because life is wildly resilient. It doesn’t matter whether you are a human being or a roadrunner, “There is a great River of Life flowing through the Cosmos and we are not separate from it.”
Join us for a quick sip from the River. (Click for enlargements)
Hunters often return to the same place where they’ve had success before. Roadrunners are skilled hunters. We’ve discussed before Dan True and his movie of a roadrunner killing a rattlesnake. And we’ve shown you one eating a field mouse. Last time we showed you photos of him stalking in a bush in our backyard. As we’ve noted, we’re not sure how Chuck, our Greater Roadrunner, found the back yard and its bird feeders but he did. Yesterday, we didn’t see him in the bush. Neither did the House Finch which you see in today’s photos.
To a Roadrunner, a bird in the beak is worth two in the bush.
Because nature can be pretty raw, we are posting only the thumbnails. To see the photos at normal size, all you need do is click on the thumbnail.
In the first shot, Chuck has already caught the finch and is throwing it to the ground. The finch is probably already dead in this photo.
In this photo, Chuck is plucking his catch. Interestingly, he did not pick off all the feathers, as a falcon or hawk might, just the larger wing feathers.
In this shot, he has finished plucking. We were wondering at this point whether he would take the finch home to his nestlings or dine on the bird himself.
After such a fine meal, all the authorities consider it best to have a nice dust bath.
We also have photos of Chuck eating a mouse.
WARNING – VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED
If you love cute little mice, it is perhaps best not to view the photos at the bottom of this post. If you don’t mind nature in the raw, click on the links to see the photographs.
Chuck, our neighborhood Greater Roadrunner about whom we have written before, had a meal on our fence the other day. It was not the usual bits of hamburger we leave out for him; it was a mouse. As you can see from the photographs, he swallowed it whole. Roadrunners are omnivorous little cuckoos — which is to say they will eat about anything they can get their beaks on — and obviously can down a large meal at once.
No wonder Wily E. Coyote is always after the roadrunner in the cartoons. The little speedsters are full of organic food. Eating one would give a coyote all its basic food groups in a single meal. Of course, coyotes seldom catch roadrunners. Roadrunners, on the other hand, catch lots of birds. Like Peregrine Falcons, roadrunners first pluck all the feathers out of their avian cousins before swallowing them whole. Swallowing their prey whole is their favored method of eating. Eating Horned Lizards whole can be hazardous though so they turn them upside down and swallow them head first so the spines don’t catch in their throats.
Greater Roadrunners eat a lot. Scientists studied the dining habits of a New Mexico roadrunner one winter. Here is what the bird ate in one day:
497 darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae), 2 lady beetles (Coccinellidae), 5 milkweed bugs (Lygaeidae), 5 grasshoppers (Locustidae), 3 assassin flies (Asilidae), 4 butterfly larva (Lepidoptera; Geluso 1970).
Around our house, that bird would have also had a few bites of hamburger and maybe an entire mouse. Their stomachs can hold up to 40 cubic centimeters of food at a time. Despite what that one New Mexico roadrunner ate, they are more likely to eat birds, fruits and seeds in the winter simply because of availability. Their calorie needs are probably lower in the winter because of their ability to lower their body temperatures during cold nights. (From about 40 degrees centigrade to 34 degrees.)
Chuck has a friend around now. More about her in a later post.
UPDATE: Mice are not all that Greater Roadrunners eat. They eat birds as well.
When it comes to training birds and animals it is a fair question to ask, “Who is the trainer and who is the trainee?” As an example we tender some more photographs of Chuck, the neighborhood Greater Roadrunner. Click on the photographs to see larger versions.
In the first photograph you see the view taken from our front door. It takes only a bit of anthropomorphic thought to imagine that Chuck’s stare indicates displeasure. He has arrived for his morning hamburger and it is not on the fence.
In the second photo, well trained, we approach with hamburger in hand. Now Chuck could easily be affecting dispassionate disinterest; however, as you see in photographs three and four, he was ready to eat.
Chuck never eats all the hamburger at once. He returns from time to time during the day for another morsel. He seems confident that it will be there. If there are any left overs at the close of day, we remove them. Cats do skulk about the neighborhood at night and we choose not to attract them. See our post here explaining why.