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Greater roadrunner        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Roadrunners -- with their goofy crests and long, mobile tails -- are icons of the American southwest (and in cartoons with the ever-suffering Wile E. Coyote character).   They are related to cuckoos, and have a haunting cuckoo-like call (a slow, descending series of soft hoots) that can be heard in spring; when calling they bow low and expose bright patches of bare skin on the head (lower left).   Everyone seems to like them, except for herpetologists who resent their skills in catching lizards and small snakes (they also eat insects, mice, baby birds, and about anything else they can catch).   They are famous for their ability to catch small rattlesnakes (although this isn't common).   Near the bottom of the page is a photo of a sun-bathing bird (they do this in the early morning to warm up).   One of these roadrunners has caught a western fence lizard; another is also fiddling with a freshy-captured lizard, and two images show a bird with a desert horned lizard.   The pictures were taken in Joshua Tree National Park, Yucaipa, and Palm Desert (all in California).

  • Canon 10D, 1D Mk. II, 1D4, or 7D2; 500 mm f4 IS lens plus 1.4X or 2X converter or 800 mm IS lens plus 1.4X converter, fill-in flash (2004, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2015)