The other day I spotted a Greater Roadrunner while I was out walking. I was headed down a pathway in one direction and the roadrunner was walking toward me from the opposite direction. I stopped, curious as to whether the bird would turn off or walk past me. I was a bit surprised when the bird walked to a point that was at right angles from me, scarcely 10 feet away. Pretty bold of him, I thought. Suddenly, the roadrunner crouched and began looking at something above its head in some overhanging tree branches.
The bird sat there, absolutely motionless for at least 1/2 minute. Its body got tenser and its stare became ever more focused as the seconds passed.
I took my eyes off the bird, looked up into the mass of overhanging branches, and saw nothing. What could have attracted its attention?
Suddenly the roadrunner leaped, flapping its wings to assist it in its jump. I heard a loud “click” as it snapped its beak shut. At the same instant, I saw a panicked Mourning Dove take to the air from its resting place on a tree branch and fly off unscathed, minus a couple of feathers that drifted slowly to the ground. The roadrunner had missed a meal by milliseconds, it seemed.
Roadrunners are amusing birds and their antics are almost always fun to watch. We forget, sometimes, that they are ferocious predators, as intent on capturing prey as is any hawk or falcon. Roadrunners prey on a wide variety of birds and animals ranging from doves to rattlesnakes, and also on insects. Last summer I watched a roadrunner successfully capture a dragonfly by leaping into the air and snatching it in the same manner that this bird went after the dove. Roadrunners can use their huge beaks with surgical precision to snatch and hold prey, and, although they are weak fliers, they are capable of prodigious leaps assisted by their wings.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f6.3 @ 1/1250.