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Getting To Know The State Bird

In the Desert or the City, Roadrunners are Born to Run

You can’t spend time in New Mexico without coming across a roadrunner in some form, either as a fast-moving bird in your backyard or as a logo for a state institution or a business identity. It has been the state bird since 1949 when it was called a “Chaparral Bird,” and it is a ubiquitous presence on the high desert.

Roadrunners are the subject of both pop culture and Indigenous spirituality. Made popular by the Warner Brothers cartoon series, they are depicted as having the ability to outrun a coyote, which unfortunately is not true. Some Pueblo tribes consider them an omen of good luck and believe that they possess the ability to ward off evil spirits. Their unusual X-shaped tracks, which disguise their direction, are considered a clever subterfuge in Native culture.

Roadrunners have adapted to urban environments and can be encountered all over Albuquerque. They become semi-domesticated if they sense that you’re not a threat.

If a pair makes your yard their territory, be prepared for lots of drama. There are the mating rituals where the male sits high in a tree and makes a series of cooing sounds to attract a female. He will bring her, shiny things like gum wrappers, or material for the nest. The pair will take turns sitting on the eggs, and you’ll know they’ve hatched when you see the adults swiftly running to the nest with food for the babies. Once the young have left the nest, the parents will feed them for a few weeks, then chase them off and treat them as a competitor for food.

Surviving the cold winters with scarce food sources, enduring the blazing sun in the summer with little available water, and evading a myriad of predators makes the roadrunner a tough little desert bird.