Radio telemetry used to track movement of the roadrunner

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Washington, August 2 (ANI): A team of scientists, using radio telemetry, has tracked the movement of the roadrunner and studied its ecology and habitat.

The study was lead by Dr. Dean Ransom, AgriLife Research wildlife ecologist in Vernon, US.

Using radio telemetry and studying more than 50 nests, he and his staff have researched home range, habitat use, nesting ecology and dispersal of young since 2006.

The roadrunner is fairly common across the southwestern US, but very little is known about the bird, according to Ransom.

As their name suggests, roadrunners spend most of their time walking and running along the ground, but are capable of flight when pressured.

Ransom said that roadrunner behavior is somewhat unique.

They are monogamous and likely mate for life. Also, the male helps in all facets of nesting and feeding the young, including incubating the eggs at night.

Nesting activity begins in early April. The nest typically is located in a tree or shrub, about 3-5 feet high, and usually in dense brush not far from an edge, such as a fence line or ranch road.

"Such nest placement allows ease of movement to and from the nest, quick escape from predators and open areas to hunt and forage for lizards and snakes that bask in the bare dirt," Ransom said.

Most nests are well hidden and difficult to find. They are generally in the crook of a large single-trunk tree, using the main branch of the trunk for stability.

The nest is a flat-platformed shallow bowl with the outer rim lined with fairly large twigs and resembles a large mockingbird nest.

Roadrunners lay about four eggs on average per nest, but the clutch size can range as high as 10, according to Ransom.

In the larger clutches, many of the young don't survive and older nestlings have been documented eating their younger siblings.

"We used nest cameras to document what the parents were feeding their young," he said. "The diet is based solidly on reptiles, especially Texas horned lizards. We have also seen mice, snakes, grasshoppers and a tarantula, and importantly, no birds, particularly bobwhite quail," he added.

Some landowners have expressed concern that roadrunners prey on bobwhite quail, but Ransom said, "I seriously doubt roadrunners prey on very many quail. Ecologically, quail are not efficient prey for a generalist and opportunistic predator like roadrunners.

"But we will continue watching and recording, just to be thorough," he said. (ANI)

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