Natural Sightings Roadrunner

A Greater Roadrunner scampers through the land near the Tehachapi Post Office.

Contributed by Michael Duffy

Michael Duffy took this photo of a Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) out near the Tehachapi Post Office. Mike says he often sees one or two Roadrunners in the Capital Hills area.

Roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family, and their ornithological name means "Earth Cuckoo of California." As its common name implies, there is a Lesser Roadrunner, which is smaller overall and has a significantly shorter bill, but it is native to Mexico and Central America and not found in the U.S.

Roadrunners are built for speed, and spend most of their lives on the ground, not in flight. Unlike the cartoon featuring the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, however, Roadrunners cannot outrun a coyote in a straight race — coyotes have been clocked at more than 40 miles an hour, twice the speed of a Roadrunner.

Although Roadrunners are most commonly associated with arid, desert-like environments, and they are quite adaptable and will live in a variety of habitats, ranging almost as far east as the Mississippi River. They are found throughout the Tehachapi Mountains, including in Bear Valley, and one used to roost on a porch light fixture at my friend Kathi Hinkle's house near the golf course.

Roadrunners are well-suited for a life without much access to surface water, and obtain much of their moisture from the prey they eat. Like seabirds, they rid their bodies of excess salt by excreting it through a gland in front of each eye, which requires less water than using their kidneys and urinary system.

The Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Pauite) word for Roadrunner is Iyip, pronounced eye-YIP.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.