Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Birding

It is easy to dismiss birding in the Summer,  We know that the weather makes it difficult to want to suffer the heat and get out to bird.  It's hard on the birds, too.  The novice as well as the experienced birder knows the species above.  Yet, how much about this species and the family to which it belongs do we know.  So, my thought for today is that we should use the Summer to learn as much about the bird we see and not worry too much about the number of species seen.

Here goes...the first striking fact about the Greater Roadrunner is that it belongs to a family that is about as diverse as a family can be.  Other members of the Roadrunner's family are the Yellow Billed Cuckoo and the Black Billed Cuckoo and the Anis, the Grooved Billed and Smooth Billed.  Their looks and behaviors could not be more different. 

Second, all members of the family are zygodactyl having two toes in front and two in back.  Most of us think of woodpeckers when we think of toes being zygodactyl.  Now you have another group to add to those with that configuration.

Third, this family has members with weak legs, the anis and cuckoos.  However, the roadrunner has very strong, long legs and chooses to run rather than fly most often.  To illustrate,  I still have in my mind a strong vision from some 40 years ago the first time I ever saw a roadrunner take flight.  I had just come up on it as it was crossing a dirt road in SE Oklahoma when, to avoid my vehicle it spread its wings for a short flight to the top wire on a fence.

The Greater Roadrunner eats mainly lizards and snakes and is known as only one of the animals that will attack rattlesnakes. Sometimes they will pair to hunt the rattlers, one distracting the snake while the other grabs for the snake's head.  Then it is merely the bashing of the head against a rock to kill the snake.

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