There is probably one bird that, due to pop culture and curiously bizarre appearances and behaviors, more than any other has become synonymous with the desert southwest. The Greater Roadrunner. Well, it took an entire year, but I finally got some decent photos of one. It's not that I haven't seen them numerous times in the past year, as they are quite common in the area (I'm guessing we probably have two or three that live here at the Well). It's just that they can be surprisingly hard to find when you want to see one. And every time I did spot one, whether it was on the road (of course) or running across the walls of the Tuzigoot pueblo, I never had a camera with me.
Well, that all changed yesterday when Sonja went outside to take the trash to the dumpster. Several minutes later she comes dashing back into the house to tell me to grab the camera and go check out the roadrunner in the yard next door. It took me a minute to switch lenses and get my shoes on, so I wasn't very hopeful that it would still be there, but as you can see in the photos below, I got lucky.
There's just something about this bird that makes everyone smile when they see one. I don't know, maybe it's the novelty of seeing a cartoon character come to life. But you never see that reaction when someone spots a coyote or a frog.
I really like this photo, since it sort of captures the personality of the bird. It seemed fairly unconcerned that I was standing so close, and spent most of its time peering down into the grass looking for food. I guess Sonja saw it eating some little bugs and stuff, but it didn't find anything while I was looking.
Whenever it stopped it would raise and lower its tail and crest together. I'm not sure if this is an unconscious display or if it was for my benefit as some sort of dominance/territorial thing, but it was pretty cool to watch. I've never seen any other species of cuckoo, whose family they belong to, so I don't know if it's something you find in other members of the family, either.
This one gives us a good look at its powerful legs. While it is perfectly capable of flying, I've rarely seen them doing anything but running along the ground. The length of their legs helps them not only run quickly, but also hunt and kill some of their more dangerous prey species, like rattlesnakes.
And here is the typical view most people have when they see a roadrunner: the bird running quickly away. Now, if I could only get one of our Common Blackhawks to cooperate so well.