Posts Tagged ‘Greater Roadrunner’

Grandchild of Chuck?

February 7, 2011

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.

Son of Chuck

December 24, 2009

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.

Thanks to Chuck

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.

Broken Beak

October 1, 2008

Here is a photo of Chuck’s broken lower beak.  So far there is no sign that it is growing back.  Which means a long winter of feeding him lots of mice, which are not cheap when you have to buy frozen ones. We’re setting up a fund.  Donations gleefully accepted, either of cash or recently dead mice.

Broken Beak

Broken Beak

Chuck’s Calamity

September 16, 2008

As you walk down the muddy road of life you learn all sorts of things.  Some of the things you learn, you really didn’t want to know.

For instance, we lived many decades without knowing that you can go to your local pet store and buy frozen mice.  Frozen dead mice. “Not for human consumption,” says the package in what must be one of history’s most unnecessary warnings.

We didn’t really want to know about frozen mice but Chuck, our neighborhood Greater Roadrunner, needed for us to know so we learned.

Chuck, about whom we have written many times, showed up here last week with part of his lower beak broken and dangling by a thread.  The broken part later fell off.  But he was unable to eat for a day or so and remains unable to hunt for himself. He couldn’t even pick up the tidbits of hamburger we customarily give him. Besides, a roadrunner who ate only hamburger would soon die of malnutrition anyway.  They need a varied diet which includes the bones, hair, blood, and internal organs of their prey.  Plus that is where they get most of their water, although roadrunners, adapted to desert living, don’t need much water.

So we learned about frozen mice.  We thaw them and give him one and sometimes two a day.  He usually can pick one up on the second or third try, although he seemed a little befuddled the first time.  We don’t think he’d ever seen a white mouse before. We’ve also improved the hamburger; now he gets raw flank steak. So far, we think he is doing OK but it may be touch and go for awhile.  We’ll keep you posted.

And we’ll keep buying frozen mice.

The Mighty Hunter

May 4, 2008

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.

Raodrunner plucking its kill

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.

Finch prepared for dinner

This photo was taken about one second before the finch was down the hatch. This was Chuck’s dinner.
Down the Hatch

Here we have a smug, self-satisfied bird. Note the size of his throat.
Full Crop

After such a fine meal, all the authorities consider it best to have a nice dust bath.

Roadrunner Dust Bath


We also have photos of Chuck eating a mouse.

A Bird in the Bush

May 2, 2008

“A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand.” No, that’s not how it goes.  “Two birds in the bush are worth one in the hand?”  No, that’s not it either.  How about, “two birds in the hand are worth one in the bush? “ Nope.  That’s wrong too. . . .Don’t tell me, I’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, look at this photo.
Greater Raodrunner

There is a bird in that bush.  Can you see it?

We try to arrange our bird feeding stations around the back yard away from the usual urban predators, especially house cats.  We also insure that the feeders hang high enough that the dogs, should they suddenly become interested in birds — as dogs sometimes do — can’t jump up and reach a bird on a feeder.  Mainly though the dogs are happy with the left-overs underneath the feeders and not interested in the birds themselves.

But some predators come no matter what we do.  The occasional hawk flies in and surveys the cafeteria.  Racoons are not unheard of.  And that bird in the bush in the photo.  Have you found it yet?  It is well-camouflaged, as a House Sparrow discovered just moments after the photo was snapped.  “Snapped” was what happened to the sparrow’s neck.  The bird in the bush agreed with Shakespeare, “There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.”

Here is the photo enlarged.

Yes.  That is Chuck, our neighborhood Greater Roadrunner.  Chuck and Chuckina still come for hamburger bits on the front wall but they also visit the back yard.  We think they have babies. We’ve watched them collect two or three bits of hamburger in their beaks and run off down the street without eating the hamburger first.  This is new behavior.  Usually they just clack at us and eat the hamburger.  We conclude from this that they are feeding babies, although we have not found their nest and can’t be sure.

One bird in the bush is . . . deadly to sparrows.

Roadrunner Eating Mouse

February 23, 2008


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.

Chuck Plays with His Food

November 4, 2007

Chuck has become a demanding roadrunner.  Once each morning and once each afternoon he shows up on our fence and resolutely hangs out until one of us notices and brings him his hamburger.  He likes to play with his food as you can see.


He also is becoming rather vain, posing for his portrait whenever asked.


%d bloggers like this: