Lloyd Herziger took this photo at the east end of the Tehachapi Valley of a Greater Roadrunner that had perched on his truck. The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a member of the cuckoo family. It was given the name “Greater” to distinguish it from a smaller relative, the Lesser Roadrunner, that is found in Mexico and Central America.
Greater Roadrunners are true omnivores, making use of a huge variety of food items found in the arid landscapes that they typically occupy. They are predatory and eat insects of all kinds, spiders, centipedes, scorpions, lizards, snakes, eggs, seeds and fruit. They regularly eat rattlesnakes, especially smaller ones, and are considered the only true predator of the large and fearsome tarantula hawk wasps.
Roadrunners can get quite accustomed to people, and will forage or roost around human habitation. My friend Kathy Hinkle had one spending the nights on her front porch in Bear Valley Springs.
While they can’t cover ground quite as fast as the Roadrunner in the old Looney Tunes cartoons, Roadrunners can run very quickly and have been clocked at more than 20 miles per hour. They fly as well, of course, but typically for short bursts before gliding back down to the ground or a low shrub or tree.
Many Native American tribes in the West have viewed Roadrunners with esteem. Their toe pattern, with two toes facing forward and two backward leaves a distinctive X-shaped track. This makes it more difficult to tell from their tracks which direction a bird was headed, leading to the belief that evil spirits have a hard time tracking them. The Nuwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) 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: email@example.com.