I finally saw my first greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californiaus) while visiting friends in the Tucson area.
A cuckoo of the Desert Southwest, the greater roadrunner is well adapted to its arid environment. Its prey (lizards, small mammals, birds and even rattlesnakes) is rich in moisture. They can flutter an unfeathered area beneath their bill to cool themselves. And rather than excrete salts through their kidneys, a process using large amounts of water, the roadrunner secretes concentrated salts from a specialized gland in front of their eyes.
The roadrunner spends most of its life on the ground and is a very fast runner, but does not fly well. Because two of its toes point forward and two point backward, the roadrunner footprint looks like an “X”. Like the “Roadrunner” of Warner Brothers’ cartoon fame, the greater roadrunner runs parallel to the ground using its tail as a rudder. I could not help but laugh watching the roadrunner as it ran around an arroyo in Green Valley Arizona where these pictures were taken.
The roadrunner has a long neck, long legs, a very long straight tail and a short crest. It is tan or brown with blackish streaking. The long bill is slightly down curved. Behind the eye is a patch of bare, blue skin.
What a treat to finally see a greater roadrunner.