The Return Of The Roadrunner!

August 21, 2018 Posted by: Stephanie Root
Park staff was taken by surprise in August when a camera trap revealed a visit by a greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). Many San Diegans know that roadrunners do exist in the county – in places like Mission Trails Regional Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Lake Hodges (iNaturalist occurrence data, 2018). 

They have been absent for decades at Cabrillo National Monument, save for a handful of observations in the in the last 9 years (eBird occurrence data, 2018). In the last five years, various rumors have gone around staff at the park, with some sightings reported, but none were confirmed, or even believed. Recent sightings in Point Loma neighborhoods this summer made staff wonder if the bird would make it all the way down to Cabrillo, and sure enough, it did. A roadrunner finally made an appearance, and this time, with proof! 

Single roadrunner captured on a camera trap in Cabrillo National MonumentNPS Photo - Single roadrunner captured on a camera trap in Cabrillo National Monument

Greater roadrunners are, in the author’s opinion, one of the coolest birds around. They are part of the Cuckoo family, and will eat just about anything they can catch. This includes lizards, insects, smaller birds, and snakes. Even rattlesnakes! If they have larger prey items, they will slam them against a rock or the ground. This helps to subdue or kill the animal as well as elongating the body so that digestion is made easier. Roadrunners will also eat plant material in the winter, which makes up about ten percent of their diet. 

As their name implies, most of the roadrunner’s movements are by foot, running along the ground in open areas, like roads or sparsely vegetated habitats. They fly just about as well as quail, just short flights when they feel threatened or need to move fast. Courtship between a male and female roadrunner might be the most interesting part of this bird’s life. The male will catch a prey item and offer it to the female, and he then jumps on her back while they both grasp the food with their beaks. After mating, the male then will do dances around the female with bowing and tail flicking moves. So stylish! 

There have been a few more sightings since our camera trap initially captured the bird. Maybe you can see him or her running around the Visitor Center area!

Single roadrunner behind CNM officesNPS Photo/Alexandria Warneke - Single roadrunner behind CNM offices

avian, wildlife, bird

Last updated: August 21, 2018

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