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I have a road runner that is somewhat conditioned to expect a hamburger ball when he exits the Pyrocantha bush behind my house where he roosts. A second bird has been hanging around for the last 3 weeks or so especially during the extreme cold that persisted until 2 days ago. Today - Valentine's Day - he popped out of the shrub with a stick in his mouth - something that males initiate mating rituals with - a gift of the beginnings of a nest construction. I decided that some of you all might need a Valentine's Day related photo to cover the fact that you forgot to get something for that loved one. Happy Day. Photo taken 14 Feb 2011, in the lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico.





I decided that needed a bit more contrast and a bit less of the confusing background.



Tom
 

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For a minute, I thought he might be proposing to you
At work we have had a Roadrunner that wanders around the parking lot and adjacent open field. Handsome birds, not sure how it got to Northern California. It has not been seen for about 9 months. We do see Coyotes however; beep, beep................
Gerry
 

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Gerry, Nope the stick was definitely for the female, not for me. Curiously while the 2nd bird has come out and fed on previous days (admittedly not as brazenly as the first bird), she did not come out today, but rather stood back in the cover of the salt bushes while the male pecked around at the splattered burgers. Whether he carried some of the food back to the female is unknown, because I did not stand to watch for more than a few minutes. Last year the first next was reared in an open shed on the back of my workshop, and the 2nd and 3rd nests in a large bush adjacent to our house. Apparently the shed is warmer in the spring and the bird prefer the natural vegetation for the hotter months. I've watched them bring as many as 14 lizards to the nest in a single day so they are clearly a major draw on lizards (although we still have plenty). In my eyes, they are cool birds, but vulnerable to winter stress when temps are such that lizards don't come out for potential food sources for the road runners. Thats why I feed them a bit in the cool months. If they are primarily lizard feeders (sometimes scoring a humming bird or mouse/antelope ground squirrel or snake) their distribution should be very closely tied to climatic regions where lizards could be active anyday of the year (any not every). I need to check on their California distribution. Maybe you have a leader of the climatic change forefront. Cheers, Tom
 

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Greater roadrunners are omnivores and will eat just about anything they can catch and kill, as well as some plants, especially rotten fruit, though some authorities claim the birds are actually after insects and larvae in the fruit. They will also eat seeds, and are particularly found of the seeds of prickly pear cactus and sumac. Roadrunners are virtually the only predator of tarantula hawk wasps, owners of the 2nd most painful insect sting known to man.



Native range of roadrunners extends well into the Northern California's Sacramento Valley, between the Klamath and Cascade Mountains. Contemporary range expansion is due to the roadrunner being more easily able to acclimate to human presence than other ground-dwelling birds and mammals. As prey species populations change with human intrusion, other species with more limited prey populations migrate away, leaving more habitat for the roadrunners, who definately are not picky eaters. Also, humans tend to clear land, reducing cover for aboreal species while increasing more open savannah-like areas preferred by roadrunners.



Nothing like being a bottomless pit of useless trivia, eh?
 

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Thanks Qwerty, It aint useless trivia if I'm interested and pay attention (which I did). I guess what makes trivia trivial is that it is of little use, but I can't see info about biology as either useless or inconsequential. Nearly all animals typically depicted as carnivores will eat some plant material under the right conditions (cats are pretty close to being restricted to nonplant foods). I suspect that the road runner is pretty hard up to feed on days in which the temp does not get above freezing. While they will eat birds and rodents, these meals are probably pretty few and far between relative to the lizard and insect meals. During the winter, the side-blotched lizards can be active any day, but are not when the temps is at or below freezing unless they have an abnormally warm wall exposed to sunshine. Ditto for most insects but they can be found by digging in leaf litter, under sticks etc even when inactive. But trying to find an edible fruit or a readily digestable seed might be a challenge in the winter time. All seeds that are available are going to be dried, hard, and difficult to digest if you have the enzymes of a meat or insect eater. One roadrunner living halfway down our lane was eaten by something last week (our coldest spell for a long time). I suspect the bird was caught at night (lower body metabolism to save energy), or in the morning hours when he was forced to bask (feather fluffed, black skin exposed, and in full sun = an hence exposed to wiley coyote or a sharp-shinned hawk. Now that I know I have a courting pair it explains the difference in behavior (one quite bold and eager to get food and the other more timid and coming up to eat offerings only occasionally). The courtship behavior actually calls for the female to beg for food from the male. (Hey provide for me if you want to share the kids or something like that). Thanks for the jog about the 10% of their diet being plant material, but I'm suspect that its all consumed in the summer. Cheers, Tom
 

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Roadrunners also acclimate to hand feeding quite easily, and, with enough patience, some have even allowed themselves to be petted, and a few even held.



Most carnivores eat plenty of plants--they eat herbivores, and usually the first part eaten if not swallowed whole is the digestive track, which is usually full of plants.



Roadrunners go into a slow-down mode kind of like hibernation at night--their body temperatures and vital signs drop. Whether or not they can do this for several days of inclement weather I do not know.
 

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My parents have a 2nd home in Palm Desert, Ca. and a few of these birds live in the area. Beautifull big birds that can move pretty quickly. The birds around my parents house are wary of humans but can be very aggressive if they think foods available. I look forward to hopefully seeing them everytime I head out to the desert.
 
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