Spike has a home on the Web: http://spike.ahwilderness.com (no www.). That URL will take you to the Spike category of Ah, Wilderness! Not quite a vanity domain name, but if that link sees enough traffic, I’ll consider getting Spike her own domain for her birthday. peace, mjh
We knew others feed roadrunners. A neighbor feeds Spam or Vienna wieners to his pair, who could be Spike’s parents. They nest as close to his door as they can get and don’t roam far. Another neighbor fed “her” roadrunners raw chicken. But, we assumed we were the only ones foolish enough to pay for mice to feed to roadrunners — until we met Sam at Hawks Aloft. She has been feeding roadrunners for over 15 years. She believes Hot Lips, the crossbilled roadrunner, was over 20 years old. Roady lost a big part of his upper bill over 5 years ago, but with Sam’s help, Roady has raised several broods. Sam says she has hundreds of roadrunner grandbabies. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to feed them all store-bought mice. Even so, our rough guestimate of Sam’s running tab has us thinking twice. If Spike outlives us, do we have to provide for her? Maybe she’ll like Spam now and then. She gobbled up the mealworms we bought today.
We’ve been interacting with Spike the roadrunner for about 6 months. We see him almost daily. He’s not a pet – he’s leery of us, as he should be – but we know each other.
Spike has recently started calling, a sound we’ve never heard before. We’re familiar with the roadrunner call that sounds much like a mourning dove only more mournful. This call is a loud whoop. You can hear it in the first short video. I took the second video immediately after the call.
It’s warm and rainy in Albuquerque today – to call that unusual is tragic understatement. Spike has hunkered down on his rock in the front yard in a pose that reminds me of green herons or black-crowned night herons – no neck.
Let’s begin at the end of the tale: Don’t watch these short movies if you live in Disneyland. The first one is shorter (40 sec) with more behavioral displays – pause to see the riot of feathers. The second one is longer (2 min) with more tenderizing (and traffic noise).
Spike’s continuing story:
We had quite a scare a couple of weeks ago. Mer had fed Spike his morning mouse. We were standing within arm’s reach of Spike, who was perched on the wall between us and the neighbor’s yard. Suddenly, Spooky the black cat leapt from the far side of the wall and landed on Spike. It was as startling as any horror movie. Spike squawked, Mer shrieked, and I exclaimed, “Son of a Bitch!” to my own great surprise. Spike managed to fly off. Spooky disappeared – lucky for him, because I was stalking him brick in hand. Spike ran down the road toward Indian School and its traffic. We watched him run around the corner, so we knew he was probably OK but feared we’d never see him again.
To our great relief, Spike clattered for food from the rooftop the next morning. He looked a bit disheveled but uninjured. He doesn’t return every day or twice a day, as he used to, but we hope that means better chances for his survival.
Of course, we should let wildlife remain wild. Failing to do so puts them and us at risk. However, humans are often captivated by a wild creature that shows curiosity and expresses a unique personality. I’ve been observing roadrunners for over 25 years and I’ve never known one like Spike, as I think a few photos will show. Although he isn’t really our pet nor do we want him to be, if you name a creature, feed it, and miss it when it doesn’t show up, someone is a pet. Perhaps we are Spike’s.
Roadrunners often expose their backs to the sun for warmth. The feathers there are particularly thin and sparse. However, I’ve never seen the posture Spike assumes in these two photos. (It was late afternoon and over 90 degrees – I doubt he was cold.)
Spike showed up one morning when we were feeding a turtle ground beef. He rattled, which may be a call for food or an expression of curiosity. Mer has learned to imitate him and he comes when she calls. As his surrogate mama, Mer showed him how to find worms in the compost and fed him a grasshopper (I missed that photo op).
When we told a friend at Hawks Aloft that we were feeding Spike ground beef, she said it wasn’t nutritious enough. So, we bought a bag of frozen mice from Hawks Aloft (“chocolate,” ie, brown). Spike figured out what to do immediately – he swung it by the tail and smashed it on the ground repeatedly. Yum, tender.
I was a little alarmed when an adult roadrunner showed up and took the burger ball from Spike, but that only happened once. However, Spike had a young friend with him one morning – we called her Alice (after “Spike and Alice,” derived from a card game called Spite and Malice – hat tip to the Mullanys).
See more pictures and videos.
Read an update with new photos (10/02/12)