Geococcyx Californianus: Pam’s Favorite Greater Roadrunner Pair Comes To Call

Pam enjoys her greater roadrunner visitors…greatly. I’m still scratching my head over Geococcyx californianus. Having them call at the Border Fort here in southern Cochise County, Arizona, is cool enough–but who provides these scientific names, anyway? Geococcyx californianus. Sounds like the Californians are discussing the tailbone (coccyx) of the Earth (Geo)…or something.

Okay, so it’s really only Latin for “California earth cuckoo”. Aren’t all Californians cuckoo? Which would make that redundant?

Oh, it’s all right, y’all. I’m a survivor of the great state of Montana, where men are men and sheep run scared, where Brokeback Mountain became a hit movie, where Senator Max Baucus helped craft Obamacare legislation and then quick like a bunny announced his impending retirement when he saw the train wreck known as the Affordable Care Act coming down the track.

Wait. Sorry. Didn’t mean to rant off into interstate insults and the insult to all humans known as politics. This post is not for the birds; it’s about birds.

We get some of our best photo opportunities right here, inside the house, aiming the Canon PowerShot out through whichever window is handiest. Basically, the Border Fort serves as a non-threatening blind. All sorts of critters gravitate our way from time to time. Yesterday afternoon, Mr. & Mrs. Roadrunner showed up out west, visible from my bedroom. When their photos were compared with those taken from various windows a couple of years ago, it seemed obvious this was the same married couple.

Cool.

There was one major difference, though, besides the fact that the two of them never got close enough to each other for long enough to show up in the same picture. Back when, those two were courting, clear as day. This time, as a happy and well established couple, their behavior was a bit different. Still enthusiastic, though; a greater roadrunner is nothing if not enthusiastic. Curious, too. The one I think of as the male (because the other one emanates femininity, though scientists say you can’t tell roadrunner genders apart by looking at them) apparently noticed the camera behind the glass. He didn’t do that at all in 2012, but why would he? That year, his attention was 100% on hooking up with his partner. But the PowerShot shoots a laser light at the photo target to measure the exposure. I’ve seen a previously unconcerned coyote take off like he had a rocket under his tail when he saw that red dot coming at him. Smart coyote.

The runner, though, didn’t sweat the dot. Instead, he looked right at it and came my way. In fits and starts, that is, going left some, right some, flicking his tail up, flicking his tail down…but generally moving in to see what he could see.

Awesome.

When I first saw the greater roadrunner, he (this one "feels" male to me), he wasn't paying any attention to the Border Fort.

When I first saw the greater roadrunner (this one “feels” male to me), he wasn’t paying any attention to the Border Fort.

Once the camera shutter started clicking, though, it didn't take long for the bird to start paying attention...and moving my way.

Once the camera shutter started clicking, though, it didn’t take long for the bird to start paying attention…and moving my way.

He'd stop and look north...

He’d stop and look north…

...then come on a bit, straight toward that most interesting camera light.

…then come on a bit, straight toward that most interesting camera light.

Stop and look south...

Stop and look south…

...then come on some more.

…then come on some more.

Eventually, the roadrunner came right on up under the window, as close as he could get without disappearing under the angle of the sill, still clearly fascinated by the camera laser.  I'd found me a roadrunner caller.

Eventually, the roadrunner came right on up under the window, as close as he could get without disappearing under the angle of the sill, still clearly fascinated by the camera laser. I’d found me a roadrunner caller.

While Mr. Runner was in close, the portrait possibilities were incredible. At a range of ten feet or less, what camera couldn’t produce great images of this Geococcyx californianus individual? Away from the Border Fort, “stranger” roadrunners don’t act like this; they scoot on, get the heck out of the way, not overly alarmed but not taking any chances, either. That Pam’s friends consider us at least a natural part of the landscape is a high compliment. We live for experiences like these.

Alert and high-tailed, the roadrunner poses near the back porch.

Alert and high-tailed, the roadrunner poses near the back porch.

Finally, giving up on learning any more about that exquisite flashing light, the roadrunner moved on, circling around the back porch–which meant that it was time for me to scoot from my bedroom window to my office window. As it turned out, the light for taking pictures was just about perfect there.

Over here looks good....

Over here looks good….

False alarm.  Maybe over there....

False alarm. Maybe over there….

Or maybe....

Or maybe….

No?  Dang.  Now I'm depressed, tail feathers dragging the ground, crest flattened.  You'd think it was Monday.

No? Dang. Now I’m depressed, tail feathers dragging the ground, crest flattened. You’d think it was Monday.

Aw-w-w-w.

Aw-w-w-w.

That’s the thing about the greater roadrunner; the bird is just so exquisitely expressive!

But you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Those (previous) pics are (except for the header) all of bird #1, the critter I think of as male. I could have the genders reversed, of course–especially since the one I think of as female was about to show her colors (that strip on the side of the roadrunner’s head which can flare open to reveal red, white, and blue…or stay closed in “stealth mode”, all at the individual bird’s whim). However, I can definitely tell these two birds apart. Not with the naked eye so much, but when studying the blown-up photos, the differences are obvious to me.

Anyway, here are a few presentations from “Mrs. Roadrunner”.

Mrs. Roadrunner was harder to photograph because she came in close to a bit of steel roofing panel that was lying on the ground.  The steel reflected major light over the lower portion of her body but not the upper.  Still, she's an expressive girl.

Mrs. Roadrunner was harder to photograph because she came in close to a bit of steel roofing panel that was lying on the ground. The steel reflected major light over the lower portion of her body but not the upper. Still, she’s an expressive girl.

Crest high and tail even higher, this is one perky-alert roadrunner.

Crest high and tail even higher, this is one perky-alert roadrunner.

Tail level now.  Every shifting angle of feather must be part of the bird's language, but I don't have a roadrunner Rosetta Stone handy yet, so....  Note the bar of red, white, and blue on the side of the head.

Tail level now. Every shifting angle of feather must be part of the bird’s language, but I don’t have a roadrunner Rosetta Stone handy yet, so…. Note the bar of red, white, and blue on the side of the head.

Moving out with the color bar on full and glorious display.

Moving out with the color bar on full and glorious display.

Up close and personal.

Up close and personal.

Queen of the dirt pile.

Queen of the dirt pile.

She finally notices the camera.

She finally notices the camera.

Be sure to get my good side.

Be sure to get my good side.

Do these feathers make my tail look fat?

Do these feathers make my tail look fat?

Okay, I'm going to twerk now.  Miley Cyrus, eat your heart out.

Okay, I’m going to twerk now. Miley Cyrus, eat your heart out.

And a-one!

And a-one!

And a-two!

And a-two!

And a-three!

And a-three!

And a-four!  And where that came from, there's plenty more!

And a-four! And where that came from, there’s plenty more!

Surely, the greater roadrunner would have to be considered one of the more entertaining birds out there. The cartoon version who’s always outsmarting Wiley Coyote has a rather limited range of movement–lightning fast, obviously, but limited nonetheless.

The real life versions are infinitely more interesting to watch.

6 thoughts on “Geococcyx Californianus: Pam’s Favorite Greater Roadrunner Pair Comes To Call

  1. I used to see these all the time, and could watch them forever. They are funny and fascinating. They are REALLY fast. They will decide to leave and be gone before you realize that they are going.

  2. Yeah, they can move out, all right. They can fly, too, even though they don’t do it much. We had a young one perched atop our 13′ TV antenna one morning a few years ago and couldn’t for the longest time figure out what sort of bird he might be. But no matter where they’re spotted, they are eminently watchable, as you say.

  3. You got some amazing shots, Ghost! I’ve never seen a road runner in real life. This is a very interesting post. I can see why Pam likes them so much. It seems they love to entertain!

  4. Thanks. They do seem that way, don’t they? I don’t know if they’re aware of just how intriguing they are to us two-leggeds, but they could be. I’d never rule out the possibility.

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