Sneaky Roadrunner ~ by Dr. James J. S. Johnson
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 KJV)
Roadrunners are unusual birds. When you think of birds, usually you think of birds that fly. But not roadrunners – mostly they run (up to 20 miles per hour!), or walk very quickly (“race-walking”). But roadrunners sometimes fly short distances, if they want to escape someone. Once I saw one fly from my home’s front yard to the roof of our house. But a roadrunner’s usual exit strategy is to run. But not always. Sometimes they try to be sneaky. Before recalling a memorable example of roadrunner sneakiness, however, a few fact about roadrunners should be reviewed.
Roadrunners have longer legs, in proportion to their bodies, than do most birds. Obviously God designed these roadrunners to get around on foot! Taxonomists (i.e., those who categorize creatures into groups of common traits, by “lumping” on similarities and “splitting” on dissimilarities) classify the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus – meaning “Californian earth-cuckoo”) as a member of the cuckoo family, birds that look like half-starved chickens with long tails. Roadrunners thrive in desert habitats, yet these black-and-white fowl are also found living in shrub-dominated lands known for hot, dry climates, such as the western half of Texas (as well as most of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California). See Roger Tory Peterson, WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), range map 192. Roadrunners can also be seen, though less frequently, in contiguous states, such as Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Missouri, and Arkansas.
Roadrunners are not picky eaters. Roadrunners are happy to eat bugs (insects and spiders), seeds, fruits, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, and even small birds (and their eggs), small mammals (usually rodents like mice, rats, and voles), and small reptiles (such as lizards). One of the more unusual insects, that roadrunners are known to eat, is the tarantula hawk wasp – an amazing spider-killing wasp that the U.S. Army named one of its “unmanned aircraft” reconnaissance units after. [See my article at www.icr.org/article/slow-death-for-tarantula-lesson-arachnid/ — “Slow Death for a Tarantula”.]
So how can a roadrunner be “sneaky”? A few months ago I walked out of my house’s front door, and saw a roadrunner in my path. Startled by my approach, the roadrunner skittishly scuttled around my van, which was parked in the driveway in front of my house. So now I was standing on the north side of my van, and the roadrunner was standing on the south side of my van.
How do I know that, since I don’t have “x-ray eyes” that can see through a parked van? As I slowly and silently crept, counter-clockwise around the west side of my van, I could see the roadrunner, standing on the south side of my blue van: he (or was it a she?) was bent over with his head turned to the southeast, with his slender bill and face aimed directly away from me. By bending down his head, and aiming it away from where I was standing, the roadrunner must have thought that he was hiding from me, and that I could not see him – because he could not see me! If I had impolitely startled him, then, surely it would have hurt his feelings, or his pride, because he obviously thought he really had me fooled. So I stood silently, unmoving, for quite a while, to see if he would notice me – only about 3 feet form him – with nothing but air between us! The roadrunner never moved, and he never turned his head to see me, so perhaps he thought I still could not see him. Not having the heart to correct him, I slowly and silently backed up to the north side of the van, then retreated back through my front door, into my house. To this day the roadrunner probably thinks that his bent-over, head-turned “hiding” had fooled me.
Then I got to thinking about how often we humans act as though we could hide ourselves from God. When our first parents first sinned (Genesis 3:8-10) they tried to hide from God, among the trees in the Garden of Eden. (If there had been a blue van there they might have tried to hide behind it.) Of course, the very thought of hiding from God is silly because He is omnipresent and omniscient (Psalm 139). But, because the Lord Jesus Christ provides us with a free redemption (John 3:16), there is no good reason to be afraid of God (Hebrews 10:19), because “perfect love casts out fear” (1st John 4:18).
Roadrunners are fun to watch – I love watching them scoot around on their fast, race-walking legs! If roadrunners only knew how kindly I regard them they would not fear me – they don’t need to sneak around to escape me. And, because of Jesus, there is no good reason for us to try to hide from God.
(Dr. James J. S. Johnson, now apologetics professor at ICR, previously taught ornithology at Dallas Christina College. Mrs. Thelma Bumgardner, his second-grade teacher, introduced him to creationist ornithology.)
- Cuculidae – Cuckoos Family
- Birds of the Bible – Cuckoo III
- Greater Roadrunner
- Dr. James J. S. Johnson