We knew others feed roadrunners. A neighbor feeds Spam or Vienna wieners to his pair, who could be Spike’s parents. They nest as close to his door as they can get and don’t roam far. Another neighbor fed “her” roadrunners raw chicken. But, we assumed we were the only ones foolish enough to pay for mice to feed to roadrunners — until we met Sam at Hawks Aloft. She has been feeding roadrunners for over 15 years. She believes Hot Lips, the crossbilled roadrunner, was over 20 years old. Roady lost a big part of his upper bill over 5 years ago, but with Sam’s help, Roady has raised several broods. Sam says she has hundreds of roadrunner grandbabies. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to feed them all store-bought mice. Even so, our rough guestimate of Sam’s running tab has us thinking twice. If Spike outlives us, do we have to provide for her? Maybe she’ll like Spam now and then. She gobbled up the mealworms we bought today.
We’ve been interacting with Spike the roadrunner for about 6 months. We see him almost daily. He’s not a pet – he’s leery of us, as he should be – but we know each other.
Spike has recently started calling, a sound we’ve never heard before. We’re familiar with the roadrunner call that sounds much like a mourning dove only more mournful. This call is a loud whoop. You can hear it in the first short video. I took the second video immediately after the call.
It’s warm and rainy in Albuquerque today – to call that unusual is tragic understatement. Spike has hunkered down on his rock in the front yard in a pose that reminds me of green herons or black-crowned night herons – no neck.
I fed Spike, the roadrunner a mouse. He carried the mouse about 10 feet from me. Just then, a merlin swooped in to within inches of Spike. Spike dropped the mouse and ran. The merlin flew over my head. All of this happened in a second and without a sound. I lifted my jaw from the ground. The merlin landed on the telephone pole behind our house. Binocs showed the merlin didn’t have the mouse, which was still where Spike dropped it.
The next time I fed Spike, he dropped the mouse and walked away – something he has never done. He came back after a minute. He’s learned it’s a jungle out there, even in the desert.
This occurred three days after we watched a merlin take a white-winged dove around the corner from us.
Let’s begin at the end of the tale: Don’t watch these short movies if you live in Disneyland. The first one is shorter (40 sec) with more behavioral displays – pause to see the riot of feathers. The second one is longer (2 min) with more tenderizing (and traffic noise).