Young Greater Roadrunner (Califorinianus Geococcyx) Sponges Off Parent

Our friends have several Califorinianus eococcyx, i.e. greater roadrunners, enjoying their acreage…but I’d never seen a young bird sponging off its elder the way this one did. It was like having your thirty year old son moving back home after he got his college degree but could not find a job.

Okay, not quite, but the image did cross my mind.

I was pulling into the driveway two mornings ago when I noticed the young roadrunner perched happily atop the mobile home’s front deck. It appeared to be enjoying the sunshine and surveying its kindom, curious but unafraid.

The young greater roadrunner perched atop the front deck, surveying its kingdom.

The young greater roadrunner perched atop the front deck, surveying its kingdom.

It watched my truck as I stopped and took a few pictures. When the truck resumed motion, getting closer, it flew down to the ground and boogied under the van parked in front of the home.

The bird flew down from the deck roof to the ground and boogied under the van.

The bird flew down from the deck roof to the ground and boogied under the van.

Okay. So far, this was cool but a rather common event in southern Cochise County, Arizona. We have plenty of greater roadrunners here. What was one more sighting?

Wait. I didn’t know it–in fact, didn’t realize it until the photos on this page were blown up on the computer–but things were about to get good. The plot thickened when an older roadrunner, one that must have been the younger bird’s parent (though whether mother or father, who knows), showed up near the far yard gate.

An older roadrunner, suspected parent to the younger bird, showed up near the far yard gate.

An older roadrunner, suspected parent to the younger bird, showed up near the far yard gate.

The younger bird finally eased out from under the van, moving up along the driver’s side to the front–where it met up with the adult. There was some interesting cackling going on, but my degree in the Califorinianus Geococcyx language…well, I don’t really have one of those. It was all bird-jabber to me.

That is, it was all bird-jabber until the next photo provided context. Clearly, the younger roadrunner is yelling, “Gimme! Gimme!”

Food arrives in the parent's beak while the younger bird--like any greedy child--yells, "Gimme!  Gimme!"

Food arrives in the parent’s beak while the younger bird–like any greedy child–yells, “Gimme! Gimme!”

It took a little study of the photos, but in the end it seemed clear that the captured caterpillar was indeed donated to the not-quite-baby roadrunner and had in fact already made its way down the offspring’s gullet by the time the next photos were snapped.

The caterpillar has gone down the hatch.

The caterpillar has gone down the hatch.

Is that all you got?

Is that all you got?

Mom (or Dad) roadrunner then turned around and headed out in another direction with Junior bent low to the ground, following.

When the older bird leaves, Junior follows...

When the older bird leaves, Junior follows…

...following the parent bird, either hoping for more free food or at least a lesson in hunting.

…following the parent bird, either hoping for more free food or at least a lesson in hunting.

There were a couple of interesting things here. For one thing, I had not realized that some birds continue to feed their young after the babies have left the nest. Clearly, that was what the older greater roadrunner was doing. Also, the body language of the younger bird as it trails the parent is fascinating. Not sure what to make of it, but still.

Finally, one photo that puzzled me for a bit. It’s obviously a from-the-rear shot of the roadrunner, but where is the beak? Maybe your eye is quicker than mine, but at first it seemed almost as tricky to locate as one of those Where’s Waldo puzzles.

Okay, where's the roadrunner's beak in this photo?

Okay, where’s the roadrunner’s beak in this photo?