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Photo of the Week: Southwest Speed Demon

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Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Posted February 13, 2014. Photo by Greg Jackson/ABQ BioPark.

As we get ready for our Great Backyard Bird Count, we pay tribute to New Mexico’s state bird. People from outside the Southwest might be surprised that the roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) looks nothing like the popular Looney Toons character. A real-life roadrunner does share speed with its cartoon counterpart--sprinting around 20 mph. However, its cartoon nemesis the coyote is faster at 43 mph. While the roadrunner prefers the ground, it can also fly to escape predators.

During mating rituals, the male roadrunner chases the female. Then he entices her by dangling a snake or lizard from his beak and swishing his tail back and forth in a provocative dance. While this might not seem romantic, roadrunners love snakes and have the nickname “snake killer.” You can watch for roadrunners around the Botanic Garden or in the Birds of the Americas exhibit at the Zoo.

Do you see roadrunners in your neighborhood? Tell us about your sightings on Facebook.


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