Greater Roadrunner — Waiting For The Tram

I was at Sabino Canyon the other afternoon with the intention of taking some more wildflower photos.  For those of you who haven’t been there, the canyon has a visitors’ center located right next to the parking area.  This time of year the parking lot tends to be full and there are usually dozens of people milling around near the center.  There’s a tram that runs from the center to the top of the canyon and back every 15 minutes and it’s an extremely popular attraction for the tourists.

There are several benches distributed next to the visitors’ center so that people can sit while they wait for the tram to arrive.  I was walking through this area when I noticed a Greater Roadrunner perched on one of the benches.  When I first saw the Roadrunner, it was facing away from the tram parking area.  Suddenly, it raised its crest and became extremely attentive to something.

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Something had obviously attracted its interest.  A moment later, it turned, still looking quite excited.

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It froze in place for an instant, still focused intently on something of great interest.

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And, then, it hopped off the bench and ran over to the canyon’s roadway at the precise moment that a tram full of tourists completed its roundtrip run up the canyon and back.  As the tourists disembarked the tram the Roadrunner walked among them, closely studying each tourist as he or she passed.

What was going on?  In the wild, Roadrunners are fairly wary in the presence of humans.  It’s not generally possible to approach too closely to one of these birds and it is virtually unheard of for a Roadrunner to walk up to a human.  But, things are different at Sabino Canyon.  Among the throngs of tourists who visit every day this time of year there are almost certainly those who can’t resist throwing a Dorito, a piece of bread, or a bit of sandwich to the Roadrunners, who happily gobble down whatever comes their way.  There are always one or two of these birds hanging out by the visitors’ center for that reason.  This one has taken the symbiotic relationship with the tourists one notch higher.  It has learned that the trams carry potential sources of food and it has learned to anticipate their arrival.  Quite clever, yes?

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 250, f8 @ 1/400.

One response to “Greater Roadrunner — Waiting For The Tram”

  1. Jane Winegard says :

    As Roadrunner is my very favorite bird from when I first got the desire to travel MANY years ago, I love your pictures which Deborah sends to me. I have a roadrunner model which is a “spitting” image of your first picture. Thank you so much. I hope to be able to print it for my enjoyment. Jane Winegard

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