Cuckoos & friends (Family Cuculidae)

Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Roadrunners are one of our most frequently encountered birds, at all seasons. A member of the Cuckoo family, slender, long-tailed birds whose feet are zygodactyl (two toes forward, two aft), Roadrunners can truly run -- up to 18 mph, faster than many lizards (which they delight to eat). Up to 2 feet in length, Roadrunners have a shaggy, streaky appearance, and they seldom fly, mainly raising their wings on the run for a low, brief glide. Note the great length of the bill, used for a variety of purposes including, prominently, attack of prey. Roadrunners are one of very few animals known to prey upon rattlesnakes, which they sometimes do in cooperative pairs, one distracting the snake while the other sneaks behind to pin its head. Note the distinctive red and pale-blue spots just behind the eye. Click on the above image for a close-up. This one was seen on a Quiburis terrace above Hot Springs Canyon in late February 2004, perhaps seeking a mate.

Below left, a roadrunner in January 2001, baring its rump to receive direct rays of the morning sun; at right, February 2003, strolling along a road -- a good view of the bill. Click on each image to enlarge it.


Below, this bird appeared with the morning sun in July 2005. Note the relative paucity and scatter of tail feathers, nicely evident here:


On May 29, 2008, we spied this gorgeous Roadrunner below left in a mesquite tree near the Teran Wash confluence. This bird, bhy the way, did not appear to have the iridescent eye coloring we have seen on many of these birds (below right). Click on each image to enlarge it.


Since in our experience it's unusual to see roadrunners hanging around in trees (as this one did, even though we approached fairly close by), we came back the following day, and sure enough saw a roadrunner's nest in the same tree, below left. Roadrunner nests are large and well-built, made with substantial sticks for a base, and it's also been our experience that sometimes they build "false nests", large neat structures that they subsequently do not occupy. So we returned to the location on the evening of June 10, to find the nest well occupied, below right. (Click on each image to enlarge it.)


Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus)

A fairly large, slender bird with a long tail barred black on white on the ventral side and a stout, mostly yellow bill, it has been seen along the San Pedro River near Cascabel (where it is an uncommmon summer visitor), though not (so far) on Saguaro Juniper lands proper.

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