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Tidbits, Greater Roadrunner
April 05, 2010

Thank You all for your kind remarks and support.

You are the best.

What a blessed week we just had.

Besides celebrating the "Resurrection and new Life', we had some outstanding weather as well here in Michigan.

Record warm temperatures have plants and trees popping out, many are at risk of killing freezes later on because of it all.

We are getting quite dry and are in need of a good rain.

In fact, I had to sprinkle last week before the the little rain we did get on Saturday and Sunday.

It does sound like more rain is headed our way, however.

I know, rain is a four letter word right now for my friends in the Northeast with the floods and prayers continue for all of you.

Karen and I took our two and a half year old grandson to see the butterflies and the Botanical Gardens last week.

Now that was a special treat for all of us as the butterflies were blooming every where and to watch the face of a young child is priceless.

Here are just a few photos From 'Frederik Meijer Gardens'.

They bring in species from around the world, yet take great care to make sure none escape and to double check to make sure nothing growing in the house is a host plant for the butterflies.

No harm, no foul, but plenty of happy faces.

I spotted my first Turkey vulture this past week.

The Tree swallows are back with all of their aerial antics.

For the first time ever, I was able to show Karen Red tail hawks in courtship, including the spiral dance feet attached and all.

What a special show that was to see.

Karen had no clue.

The first of the month also means it is time to give your feeders a good cleaning.

Add it to your spring cleaning list.

Spring is also a great time to keep feeding birds.

Nature's supply of seed is at its lowest and birds are mating, laying eggs and having hatchlings that need food.

You can help by keeping the feeders clean and full.

By all means, offer fresh water.

It is time to remove tree wraps if you haven't yet.

Wraps are great for winter protection from chewing critters and to prevent sun scald, but can harm your young trees this time of year.

The wraps help to retain moisture on and in the bark and that is an invitation to sickness and insects that enjoy dark moist locations.

Eventually this can lead to more serious problems for your young trees.

Are you putting down mulches?

Be sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk of trees and shrubs.

Again, for the same reasons.

What can occur is called crown rot.

Crown rot takes place when the base of a tree trunk is covered up and moisture stays in place.

Again, insects have a soft moist bark to chew through at this adds to virus or diseases getting under the bark and into the living cambium layer of your tree.

This may take a few years, but it happens.

Not to mention the rotting that takes place and you have a weak tree.

NEVER mound up mulches giving it that volcano look.

It is actually a good idea to give all of your trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals some space when putting down shredded bark or other wood mulches.

Wood draws nitrogen from the soil to aid in decomposition.

Now if your wood shavings are drawing nitrogen from the soil, that means less for plant growth and production.

Yes, you may have to feed you plants more because of this.

If high acid is a concern, sprinkle some lime down before you mulch to help neutralize the acid.

In normal situations, there isn't that much to worry about.

When I write, I attempt to touch on subjects that most if not all of you may have an interest in.

Certain birds, migration, butterflies, insects, gardens and so on.

Sometimes that isn't possible, especially when I have a request now and then.

Besides, some creatures are regional.

Well, this isn't a request, but a bird I have been interested in since the days of my youth and Wile Coyote.

A main stay of the Deserts and Southwest, this bird has expanded its territory to Louisiana, Arkansas and Southern Missouri.

I give you the Greater Roadrunner.


The Greater Roadrunner

(Geococcyx californianus)

It isn't a cartoon bird,

It isn't a souped up car of the muscle car era.

The Greater Roadrunner is a signature bird of the desert Southwest.

During the 20th century, its range expanded all the way to southern Missouri and western Louisiana.

A ground-dwelling cuckoo, it feeds on snakes, scorpions, and any other small animals it can catch and subdue.

The Greater Roadrunner can reach running speeds of 30 km/hr (18.6 mi/hr). It holds its head and tail flat and parallel to the ground when running at its top speed.

To warm up after a cold desert night, a roadrunner will turn its back to the sun, fluff its back feathers, and expose skin along its back. This skin is black in order to absorb more solar energy.

Geography – Range:

Throughout the Mojave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan and southern Great Basin deserts. They are in all the Southwestern states.

Related Species:

Roadrunners are ground cuckoos, are any of about 15 species of birds constituting the subfamily Neomorphinae of the Cuckoo Family (Cuculidae), noted for terrestrial habits.

There are 11 New World species, 3 of which lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.

Other ground cuckoos include the Morococcyx erythropygus, a species widespread in Central America and 5 species of Neomorphus, found from Costa Rica to Bolivia.

Three species of the very large Carpococcyx, are found in Southeast Asia and acquire a length of 24 inches.


The two species of roadrunners include the Lesser Roadrunner (G. velox) a slightly smaller, buffier and less streaky bird, of Mexico and Central America, which grows to a length of 18 inches.


The legendary roadrunner is famous for its distinctive appearance, its ability to eat rattlesnakes and its preference for scooting across the American deserts, as popularized in Warner Bros. cartoons.

The roadrunner is a large, black-and-white, mottled ground bird with a distinctive head crest. It has strong feet, a long, white-tipped tail and an over-sized bill.

It ranges in length from 20 to 24 inches from the tip of its tail to the end of its beak.

It is a member of the Cuckoo family (Cuculidae), characterized by feet with 2 forward toes and 2 behind.

When the roadrunner senses danger or is traveling downhill, it flies, revealing short, rounded wings with a white crescent.

Because it cannot keep its large body airborne for more than a few seconds, and so prefers walking or running (up to 17 miles per hour) usually with a clownish gait.


The roadrunner makes a series of 6 to 8, low, dove like coos dropping in pitch, as well as a clattering sound by rolling mandibles together.

There is no 'Beep, Beep' in any or the sounds this bird makes


The roadrunner has a long, graduated tail carried at an upward angle.


The roadrunner has long stout legs.


The roadrunner is uniquely suited to a desert environment by a number of physiological and behavioral adaptations:

Its carnivorous habits offer it a large supply of very moist food.

It reabsorbs water from its feces before excretion.

A nasal gland eliminates excess salt, instead of using the urinary tract like most birds.

It reduces its activity 50% during the heat of midday.

Its extreme quickness allows it to snatch a hummingbird or dragonfly from midair.


The roadrunner inhabits open, flat or rolling terrain with scattered cover of dry brush, chaparral or other desert scrub.

Food & Hunting:

The roadrunner feeds almost exclusively on other animals, including insects, scorpions, lizards, snakes, rodents and other birds.

Up to 10 % of its winter diet may consist of plant material due to the scarcity of desert animals at that time of the year.

Because of its lightening quickness, the roadrunner is one of the few animals that preys upon rattlesnakes.

Using its wings like a matador's cape, it snaps up a coiled rattlesnake by the tail, cracks it like a whip and repeatedly slams its head against the ground till dead.

It then swallows its prey whole, but is often unable to swallow the entire length at one time.

This does not stop the roadrunner from its normal routine.

It will continue to meander about with the snake dangling from its mouth, consuming another inch or two as the snake slowly digests.

The Greater Roadrunner is an opportunistic forager.

It frequently captures small birds at bird feeders and nest boxes. One was observed to leap up from hiding in a dry riverbed and knock down a low-flying White-throated Swift.

Breeding and nesting:

Pairs may hold a territory all year.

May mate for life.

When spring arrives, the male roadrunner, in addition to acquiring food for himself, offers choice morsels to a female as an inducement to mating.

During the courtship display, the male bows, alternately lifting and dropping his wings and spreading his tail.

He parades in front of the female with his head high and his tail and wings drooped.

He usually dances around her while she begs for food, then gives her the morsel after breeding briefly.

Both parents collect the small sticks used for building a shallow, saucer-like nest, but the female actually constructs it in a bush, cactus or small tree.

Roadrunners nests are often on a platform nest composed of sticks (nests may sometimes contain leaves, snake skins, or dung).

The nest is commonly placed in a low tree, bush, or cactus.

She then lays from 2 to 12 white eggs over a period of 3 days, which results in staggered hatching.

Eggs are generally a white color.

Incubation is from 18-20 days and is done by either parent, though preferably the male, because the nocturnally incubating males maintain normal body temperature.

For the first one to two weeks after the young hatch, one parent always remains at the nest.

The first to hatch often crowd out the late-arriving runts, which are sometimes eaten by the parents.

Usually only 3 or 4 young are finally fledged from the nest after about 18 days.

These remain near the adults for up to 2 more weeks before dispersing to the surrounding desert.

In the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of California where there is only one rainy season, roadrunners nest in spring, the only time there is abundant prey to raise a brood.

In the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, they breed again in August or September after summer rains increase their food sources.

A roadrunner life does have its dangers.

Roadrunners are occasionally preyed upon by hawks, house cats, raccoons, rat snakes, bull snakes, skunks, and, coyotes eat nestlings and eggs.

During the winter months, many succumb to freezing, icy weather, as is the case with the Missouri population.

Some Fun Facts:

Roadrunners are quick enough to catch and eat rattlesnakes.

Roadrunners prefer walking or running and attain speeds up to 17/18 miles per hour.

The Roadrunner is also called the Chaparral Cock.

The Roadrunner reabsorbs water from its feces before excretion.

The Roadrunner’s nasal gland eliminates excess salt, instead of using the urinary tract like most birds.

The roadrunner is able to get along without drinking water if it eats food with high enough water content, but it will drink readily if water is available.

The Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico.

There you have it, a crash course on the (Beep Beep)...............

Greater Roadrunner.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your thought for the week.

Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)

We all come into this world with deficiencies.

For one reason or another (physically or mentally) we may develop deficiencies or from and accident or illness, something happens.

Helen Keller would know all about these situations and she didn't allow them to drag her down.

Now, you and I can choose (yes we have choices) to carry on.

You can conquer your deficiencies or possibly improve in some way.

You may not change a physical situation, but you can improve in other ways.

NEVER EVER allow something to keep you down for a long period of time.

When you stay down or begin to play the blame game.................. you are defeated.

Through practice and improving.

Through better thinking.

Positive thoughts.

There are ways to get around or over deficiencies.

The first thing to do is develop positive thinking.

Smiles are always a nice place to start.

Often God puts another in out path that needs us.

Someone worse off.

Sometimes he gives us a helping hand that we end up helping in some manner.

Yes, you are a conqueror.

You step forward with a smile.

Now share your smiles with strangers.

Until next time my friend.

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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