Roadrunners may be more recognized as a cartoon than as a large, sleek bird that cruises through the shrubs of the desert southwest. The state bird of New Mexico, roadrunners stand 10-12 inches tall and, fully grown, can be 20-24 inches long. Roadrunners can fly, but prefer to run because they cannot keep their body airborne for more than a few seconds. Roadrunners can attain speeds of 17 mph through harsh scrub land where few can follow, so they usually do not need to fly.
Roadrunners are ideally suited to the desert habitat. They get most of the water they need from their food so providing water will not attract them.
Allow natural desert scrub land or chaparral to grow. According to Desert USA, the roadrunner "inhabits open, flat or rolling terrain with scattered cover of dry brush, chaparral or other desert scrub." If you cut back the scrub and leave wide open spaces, the roadrunners will migrate to places with more cover. They rely on patches of scrub to hide from predators, slow down pursuing predators, and to hide from prey. They can run almost full speed through thickets while larger predators such as bobcats and coyotes have to slow down to avoid them. The birds will also build their nest on platforms in the thickets. If thickets are left to grow it could attract a mating pair.
Provide food which the roadrunners prey on. The Avian Web tells us roadrunners are "omnivores and are opportunistic," which means they eat what is available. In the desert southwest, where they roam, this includes insects like crickets and grasshoppers, tarantulas, rodents, scorpions, centipedes, small birds, eggs, and fruit. They can even chase down and kill rattlesnakes. Many of the animals on this list are not favorites to humans, so killing or removing snakes, mice, and spiders will chase away roadrunners. Place several rocks in the area to attract scorpions and centipedes and allow vegetation to grow.
Learn and imitate the road runner call. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides audio of the roadrunner cooing sound. Roadrunners are monogamous and they mate for life. However, If the sound is learned and imitated by humans, it could lure a solitary roadrunner in to the vicinity. You can also record the call and play it outside to try and attract the bird.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images