The Darth Vader of the Sonoran Desert small animal kingdom streaked into my happy little urban landscape this morning.
I noticed her (yes, I believe it was a female) because of her sudden movement. With her small pointy head down and in line with her stretched neck and long tail, she suddenly ran towards a half dozen tumbling, wrestling, playful young ground squirrels – all of whom immediately disappeared down conveniently placed holes in the earth.
Enter, stage left, the Roadrunner.
I’d heard this sometimes clownish (beep-beep) but predatory bird ate baby quail ‘like candy,’ and upon further research learned she consumed anything small and slow enough to fit into her cruel beak.
As she zipped (they can run up to 15 mph) across the dusty track toward my backyard oasis, I stepped from my backdoor – pajama-clad – to defend my tiny domain. Up close she measured about 18” from beak to tail tip. Unfazed by my defensive stance and flapping arms, she turned and zipped away down the track. Neither of us was inclined to attempt to make friends.
Ten minutes later she streaked back up the track and past my backyard, a hapless lizard dangling from her beak. I thought she might have babies of her own to feed.
I had recently wondered how the city would control what seemed to be an explosion of baby ground squirrels and hoped they wouldn’t call in an exterminator with poison. Now I know they won’t need to. Ms. Roadrunner fills her niche in the desert ecosystem just fine. I can respect that, but I still don’t find her easy to like.