Return to Gallery of Available Paintings
acrylic on illustration board 15" x 40"
Probably the most iconic bird of the desert southwest, the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is one of two very similar species of large terrestrial cuckoos found in Mexico and the southwestern U.S. The two species look and behave similarly, but the larger, northern one has a longer bill and prefers more open country. Roadrunners are omnivores, feeding on fruits and seeds as well as large invertebrates, reptiles and small birds and mammals, which they run down. Most of the situations I paint are hypothetical but plausible, but this piece was based upon an event I witnessed in California's Anza Borrego State Park: a roadrunner carrying a small dead bird was running in the haphazard, zig-zag evasive mode typical of its species, barely keeping half a step ahead of the mobbing of two others. Unfortunately, distinguishing whether any of the fast-moving birds were adults or juveniles was beyond my capacity, and identifying the sex of a roadrunner under any circumstances requires supernatural powers. My assumption is that I watched either two juveniles chasing a parent or a mated pair chasing a young, inexperienced bird. The former scenario is probably most likely, but it was the latter that I selected to commit to illustration board. I was unable as well to identify the focal point of the fracas, but decided that one of the nondescript brown towhees would serve as good a candidate as any. While taking artistic liberties, I also moved the setting slightly east, to the Sonoran Desert, and painted the scrub towhee of that region, the Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus).