No doubt about it, the Southwest’s obsession with roadrunners is as old as dirt.
You can’t go a day in New Mexico without seeing the word “roadrunner” as part of a street address or local business name. And you spot sculptures of roadrunners, big and small, throughout the Southwest.
But it wasn’t until spotting this roadrunner sculpture on display at the Basin Pipe & Metal Recycling in Alamogordo I decided to look into the cult of the roadrunner.
Not because the sculpture is the biggest or the tallest I’ve ever seen, but because it’s the ugliest.
The bird looks so . . . messed up, you start to wonder why anyone would devote the time to make it.
You ask yourself, What compels Southwesterners to build sculptures of roadrunners the way the ancient Greeks did of the goddess Athena?
And then you start to wonder out loud,
Is The Fastest Bird in the West really “All That?”
That’s when you discover roadrunners have . . .
- Legendary Speed. Roadrunners can run up to 20 miles an hour. Local legends laud them for their ability to outrun humans and overtake prey.
- Voracious appetites. They eat everything ~ from seeds to fruit to rattlesnakes and small birds such as baby quail. But they also feed on centipedes and scorpions. (If not for that habit of eating cute baby-quail, I might want a roadrunner for a pet.)
- Dominion in the desert. This predatory bird that prefers walking to flying excels at hunting in the desert’s tall shrubs and open spaces. The roadrunner can survive on little to no drinking water by eating juicy (watery) prey and conserves water by secreting salt through glands near its eyes. Sunny climates with sparse populations is an ideal environment for breeding and raising lots of little roadrunners.
- Terrific Family Values. The roadrunner mates for life. And when those little bug-crunchers do come along, mom and pop join forces to build the nest. And finally, roadrunners still have …
- Their own cartoon. The speedy-legged phenom has remained among the most popular cartoon characters for decades, along with “Tweetie Bird,” “Daffy Duck,” and Disney’s “Donald Duck.
And yes, we had to go there.
Turns out The Fastest Bird in the West really is “all that.”
Well-adapted for desert life and cuisine, the roadrunner is made for the Southwest and vice-versa.
It’s more than worthy to be New Mexico’s state bird and the subject of a sculpture or two.