The Roadrunner

The fascinating thing about roadrunners is that they are members of the cuckoo family. They are born to run and can outrun a human being. Roadrunners can take on a rattlesnake, eat mammals and insects and are very territorial. These cheeky birds mate for life but live solitary lives until the springtime comes, when the male and female will join forces to build a nest together in order to raise their young. Roadrunners survive in some of the most inhospitable environments and have made Anza- Borrego Desert State Park- home. You can see these birds racing down the side of a road, or if severely threatened, will take to the sky in short bursts of flight.

One day last winter, Michael and I were biking along Borrego Springs Road toward Seely Ranch- a grapefruit, date and orange farm when we spotted a roadrunner sitting in the middle of the road. I biked past it and did a double take because it was staring off into space and didn’t react to the sight of me cruising by. When Michael also biked past him and he once again didn’t react, I knew something was terribly wrong and we circled back over to check on him.

He was breathing rapidly, with his beak slightly open, and looked dazed and confused. I thought to myself that it must have been hit by a pickup truck that had passed us on the road a little while back. We both got off of our bikes and I knelt down to get a closer look. There was no blood or obvious harm, and the only thing I could see that was wrong, were maybe a few feathers misplaced on the upper, right-hand shoulder.

I stood up and ran over to the grove to get a long stick and went back to the Roadrunner and gently nudged the stricken bird. I chose a stick because of all the photos I had seen of roadrunners leaping up in the air and grabbing rattlesnakes with their beaks. I didn’t want the roadrunner to fly up in my face and send me running in alarm! It didn’t leap up in my face but only reacted just enough for me to continue prodding it while I carefully guided it off the road. If we would have left him there, he would have been hit by the next vehicle that drove past.

Once I got him over to the shoulder, it continued to pant with its beak slightly open. I stayed with him, and after awhile, his eyes started to clear and he slowly came to his senses. I continued to speak softly to him just to make sure he didn’t go back out into the street. After 5 minutes or so, the poor thing shook his head in dazed confusion, but then looked me square in the eye before taking off at a lopsided, but much steadier lope, back down the row of orange trees. By the time it disappeared into the trees, he appeared to be almost normal again.

The truck must have just barely clipped him as he was dashing across the street; just enough of a blow to daze him, but not enough to cause any lasting damage. I have seen this happen to me when a roadrunner dashes across the street and I have narrowly missed the bird. Roadrunners are incredibly adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert and smart enough, and tough enough not to get hit by cars very often. I have never seen one dead on the road.

And this reminds me of the rascally roadrunner that has claimed my backyard as his own, and visits almost daily. If he so much as spots Callie looking at him, he will let out a prehistoric screech and start running over to her.

This scares the living daylights out of her and she tries to play it safe by sitting on the inside of the screen door. Even that isn’t a safe zone for her though. He has actually gone so far as to come looking for her inside of the house if the door is left open. Now that is one, tough, bird!

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