RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The roadrunner, or paisano-meaning fellow countryman in Spanish, is certainly one of the most recognizable birds in South Texas.
The distinctive stature of the slender roadrunner stretches two feet from its sturdy bill to white tipped tail. It is a bird that is built to run and would rather scamper than fly.
Mottled plumage of black-brown and white blends perfectly with the dusty chaparral it inhabits. When alarmed or curious, it often raises its shaggy crest before launching an investigation, and you might catch a glimpse of its patriotic red-white and blue headband.
Roadrunners are monogamous and are mates for life. This bonded pair has selected a nest site along an overgrown fence where four youngsters crowd into their abode.
Grasshoppers are the primary item on the menu this day, but roadrunners are opportunistic and will eat just about anything they can catch. Some of the plump, brown grasshoppers they bring are so big that the little rascals really have to open wide to swallow them.
Both parents feed the young, and when a ribbon snake is delivered one of the adults has to exit to make room for the exchange.
If you thought the grasshoppers were a challenge, then how in the world is that snake going down. It is not even the biggest chick in the nest that takes on the serpent, but after quite an effort the little roadrunner works his way down to the tapering tail.
After a meal like that it is time for the little paisanos to take a siesta. Now, while the nest hardly seems large enough for the foursome, mom somehow squeezes in, and with her long tail elevated broods her young.
Of course, junior has to poke his head out just to see if perhaps the next meal might be on the way.