A Greater Roadrunner was in the garden – Roadrunner bird pictures

At my first glance,  I thought this roadrunner looked like a hawk. The face and the large talons were the most prominent feature I saw.  The long tail and large size told me it was surely a Greater Roadrunner.   We have a bird’s nest on the porch and I was concerned the roadrunner was after the dove eggs.

picture of a Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner, classified as Geococcyx californianus, meaning “Californian Earth-cuckoo,” is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. There are only 2 species in the roadrunner genus Geococcys, the Lesser Roadrunner and the Greater Roadrunner.  The roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.   Named for its habit of running along roads in front of cars before darting off into brush, the greater roadrunner is a chicken-like bird with brown, black and white feathers. It has a recognizable crest of black feathers on its head which can be raised or lowered at will. The bird has a long tail with a blue beak and legs. Greater roadrunners are two feet long and weigh about 10 ounces.

Greater Roadrunner in Arizona

The other birds moved out of the roadrunner’s way but stayed in the tree.  The birds were not frightened of the roadrunner just seemed to bid him respect.   Mr Roadrunner sort of hopped, flying around which made it hard to take a picture.  Contrary to popular belief, the roadrunner is not a flightless bird. It has useable wings to propel it onto perches and over obstacles, but otherwise the greater roadrunner keeps its feet on the ground.  How fast is a roadrunner?  When on ground the roadrunner has a top speed of nearly 20 miles per hour, making it the fastest running bird capable of flight. It uses this speed to run down its prey of insects, snakes and small mammals.

a large roadrunner

I have seen roadrunners cross roads and pass quickly in desert parks and they seemed small to medium size.  This up close roadrunner is triple the size I imagined. The pictures do not express his true height.

Majestic Greater Roadrunner

The greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a ground-dwelling bird native to the arid deserts of the southwestern United States and much of Mexico. It is slightly larger but otherwise similar to the lesser roadrunner, which resides farther south into Central America.

Greater roadrunners make rudimentary nests out of sticks low in bushes or cacti. Mating seasons depend upon weather conditions, but when a new pair is courting, the male will attempt to impress the female roadrunner by offering her food; if she accepts the male, the two will likely mate for life. Roadrunner broods contain 2-8 eggs that must be incubated for 20 days.

Greater Roadrunner

In the wild, greater roadrunners can live up to 8 years. The mated pair will maintain and defend their territory year round. Doing so means they must avoid predation by carnivores native to the desert environment including hawks, coyotes and raccoons.  Roadrunners frequently ambush and prey upon small songbirds at bird feeders, I didn’t realize this and I will have to make some changes in our garden.

Glad I could share this with you.

A big hairy spider… Arizona Blond Tarantula

My eyes spotted a big hairy spider curled up at the front door. Upon closer look I saw it was a desert Tarantula. Arizona blond tarantulas are common during the Monsoon rainy season. I captured a picture of my tarantula friend before I attempted to move it to safety. Even though spiders, especially big hairy tarantula spiders give me the shakes….. I still want to honor nature and give this spider its freedom. As long as it is out of our front yard. 😉

female Arizona Blond Tarantula

The female tarantula spider is usually a uniform tan or light brown color with a stocky body; that is why this tarantula is sometimes called Arizona Blond.  More common names are desert tarantula or western tarantula.  The male desert tarantula spider has black legs, is thinner with black hair on his body and reddish hairs on his abdomen. I need a plan to move this tarantula without getting bit.  Although most tarantulas are harmless to humans;  this spider bite does hurt and can cause an extreme discomfort for a week or so.

Arizona Blond Tarantula hairy spider

In the above picture I used a large plastic bag to safely move the tarantula without harming it. Laying the bag over the yard fence and letting the Arizona Blond start her search for her tarantula mate.  All is good!

Arizona Blond Tarantulas, Aphonopelma chalcodes, belonging to the Theraphosidae family, are nocturnal predators that never venture far from their burrows unless it is mating season. It struck me odd that this large desert arachnid was at the front door.

this female blond tarantula is awaiting her mate and is safe from the confines of our yard

Her light brown, blond tarantula colors blend in quite well with the desert landscape and you can barely see this Arizona Blond Tarantula in the above photo.

Tarantulas live in dry, well-drained soils in open areas throughout the Sonoran desert and grassland areas. All North American tarantulas are ground-dwellers and live in burrows; although some other tarantula species live in trees. Male desert tarantulas mature when they are 10 to 12 years of age, at which time they leave their burrows in search of females.

The many Arizona tarantulas seen on the Sonoran Desert roads during the summer rains (July, August, September) are usually males searching for mates. The male tarantula does not survive long after his summer mating.

Mourning Dove Eggs – Mrs. Dove has made her nest – also called Turtle Doves

This lovely mourning dove has been building her nest in the same place for several years. The male dove carries twigs to the female dove who then weaves a flimsy nest of grass stems and twigs to lay her eggs. Congrats to the Mourning Doves, Turtle Doves, for their nest building teamwork!

Doves Eggs
Mourning Doves eggs

Turtle, Mourning Doves are not bothered by us humans. Commonly gutters, eaves and abandoned equipment are seen with Doves Nest. Last year, this graceful bird built a nest atop our treadmill on the back patio. Obviously we were not using it. No wonder we put on the pounds! That is a separate article… 🙂

doves nest
Mourning Doves Nest. This dove is happy to make her nest in our hanging mint plant.

Out of all the hanging plants in our garden the Mourning Dove picked this potted plant. I wasn’t sure how growing a mint plant in a hanging pot would do in the Arizona heat. Although the Mint Plant is  NOT drought tolerant, it is certainly heat tolerant and thriving in our desert garden. Partially shaded by the Chilean Mesquite Tree and extremely fragrant, this mint plant is making the best nesting area for our lovely Mourning Dove.

dove sitting on eggs
A Graceful Mourning Dove in her nest

It is common for a Mourning Dove to reuse their nest.  Our Mrs. Dove has reused this nest for several years. This is her second time in this doves nest over the past 2 months.  I’m going to be very careful to not bother this mommy dove. It is not an easy task to keep the dogs from scaring our precious dove.

Why do doves abandon their nest? Nest abandonment is very common with Mourning Doves.  If a dove feels any threat from predators whether human or animal, the dove may go elsewhere to nest, abandoning both eggs and nestlings.

How long does it take for dove eggs to hatch?  The dove eggs will be incubated for 14-15 days. It takes about the same time for the young dove chicks to leave the nest. Mourning Dove breeding season is April – July although some may breed as late as October.

mourning doves
mourning doves in love

TIDBITS:  Mourning Doves, commonly called Turtle Doves, are one of the most adaptable, widespread North American birds. It is also the leading gamebird for sport and meat. Doves are strong fliers and can reach speeds of 55 mph (88 km/h).