Apr 8 • 4M

If You Can't Pet Them

They're Not Pets

Bonnie Hawthorne
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When people ask me why I don’t have pets, my first thought is, “Don’t I?” Then I remember that the road runners who keep me company on this chunk of land are actually wild animals.

Security camera footage of road runner checking up on me at my desk. They often tap on the window to get my attention.

I’m pretty sure at least two of the ones that visit me daily were born here. I remember seeing a couple of older, rattier looking ones a few years ago, but they’re gone now. The road runner lifespan is 7-8 years, so my tenancy might have already overlapped with a couple of generations.

Those two used to sleep on the fence near the shed. I thought I’d changed something in my routine which made them stop sleeping there. Now I’m thinking they’re sleeping in the Great Beyond and that the kids just found other digs, as kids do.

One of the fence sleepers. They were there every night from sunset to dawn.

The old ones were badass, though. I once saw them work as a team to take down a rattlesnake. One danced around in front of the snake—taunting it—while the other snuck up from behind and grabbed its rattling tail. It whipped it back and forth, smashing its head on the ground, stunning it. When it stopped wriggling, the other one went in for the kill.

Some people don’t like road runners, for this reason. They eat baby birds and cute lizards. They are vicious predators. But they are also friendly and funny and eat scorpions and snakes. So, yeah, I’m OK with them.

Now a new generation of Geococcyx californianus (Californian earth-cuckoo) has been born in my yard. Road runners nest off the ground, in hidden and pokey places, like this Yucca. (Unlike those ding dong mourning doves who build nests on just about any flat surface—including exposed light fixtures.) Leave it to professional nest raiders to know where to build a nest.

By the way, someone who knows about such things recently told me this is one of the oldest Yuccas he’s ever seen—like a couple hundred years old, maybe.

Because I shoot hundreds of still photos to make my timelapse videos, I set up a camera in that mode to spy on the road runner parents this morning. Not exactly National Geographic level shit, but now I know where the nest is.

Here’s a detail of the above shot. Mom (or Dad—they both hunt and watch the nest) bringing a breakfast lizard to the family.

Contrary to popular belief, road runners do fly. But running is their best event. They are the fastest terrestrial birds that can also fly, clocked at 24 mph.

I will keep my eyes out for baby road runners and update you all, if you’re curious. Please leave a comment below. In the meantime, here’s what they sound like. No idea where Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes got “meep meep.” They have a lot more to say than that.

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