For over fifteen years I’ve hiked the same trails, encountering many mammals, insects, reptiles and birds. One of my favorite encounters is the roadrunner. Here, in Southern California, the breed is known as the Greater Roadrunner, taxonomically classification: Geococcyx Californianus, meaning "Californian Earth-Cuckoo,” aka Chaparral Cock or Ground Cuckoo. This bird grows to be 20” to 24” inches long and can run up to speeds of twenty miles per hour, (I’d like to meet the person that clock this information).
I’ve been spotting a roadrunner on the trail, which I believed to be the same one I’ve seen this past month. When I spot RR, he spots me, or possibly visa-versa. He twists his neck in my direction, scopes me out and then darts up the trail, stops and looks back at me again, and continues up the trail. This cat and mouse game goes on several more times as I imagine in my head he’s saying “get away from me honey badger, get away from me,” (referencing YouTube’s “The Honey Badger”). When he tires of my persistence, he darts off the trail into the chaparral covered slope. Only once have I witnessed this creature fly, revealing a wing span as long as his entire body, including the tail. This occurred a few years back when another hiker came down the trail with four free roaming dogs, the roadrunner, instead of dashing off, took flight over the basin, spectacular.
I took a photo of one last year. He actually stood still long enough for my photo opportunity. A patriotic stripe behind the eye, (which I now know is the sign of a male) and active crest gives him the appearance of a cartoon character; in fact, this RR breed is the prototype of the cartoon, The Roadrunner--Beep! Beep! From time to time I’ve seen one scurry by with prey hanging from his beak: A lizard, a grasshopper, praying mantis, and a beetle. I have recently learned that they also dine on smaller birds and mammals (stick to the insects).
Several years ago, when development in my community was at a high, I didn’t see any roadrunners. Sadly, houses and townhomes took over the residences of many creatures. Even though the developers tried to work in harmony with the land, there’s only so much they can do, and it always--always disturbs nature. I’m glad they are back and allow me to enjoy their presence and share a hike in their habitat.
Causes Lisa Carlson Supports