DUELING WITH A DIAMONDBACK IN THE DESERT: ROADRUNNER vs. RATTLESNAKE!
Dr. James J. S. Johnson
Let their table become a snare before them; and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. (Psalm 69:22)
Sometimes hunting backfires: the hunter becomes the hunted!
Recall how Haman, in the Book of Esther, plotted to persecuted the Jews, to death, during his heyday in the Persian Empire? The result was the opposite of his diabolical scheme, however – and it was the Jews who deftly ended as victors (over their persecutors), with Haman himself being hanged to death, on the very gallows that he had constructed for hanging his Jewish rival, Mordecai!(1)
Amazingly, the animal kingdom sometimes sees something comparable happen – such as the scrubland showdown that sometimes occurs when a rattlesnake decides to prey upon a roadrunner. For an action-packed documentation of such a do-or-die duel, see the National Geographic video footage (“Roadrunner vs. Rattlesnake”) posted at http://video.nationalgeographic.com/tv/roadrunner-vs-rattlesnake (slightly longer than 2 minutes).
Hence, here is a poetic tribute (in limerick format) to the roadrunner, whom God caringly designed to “hold its own”, and then some (!), when dueling with a diamondback in the desert!
RATTLESNAKE ATTACKS MAMA ROADRUNNER!
(JJSJ’s poetic review of predator-prey turnabout)
A rattlesnake, hunting for prey,
Met Mama Roadrunner that day;
The coiled snake grinned with glee,
But the fowl did not flee —
Thus, a bird, the snake aimed to slay.
The roadrunner brave, the snake brash;
Twin fangs lunged – but no gash!
The bird’s flesh he had missed —
The bird jumped, the snake hissed;
Again, the snake struck in a flash!
Missed again! – the bird jumped aside!
Once again, snake-fangs were denied;
So the shrewd snake re-set,
As the bird watched the threat —
Then a target the roadrunner eyed.
The roadrunner now used her skill,
To bite the snake hard, with her bill!
Between the fangs, she had bit —
Vise-clamped bite! – she won’t quit!
Fangs dangling, the snake couldn’t kill!
Struggle, wiggle, — the trapped snake did strain,
To loose the bird’s grip, but in vain!
The bird’s bite, firm and fierce —
The snake’s fangs, naught could pierce;
The snake’s plight, now dire, with pain!
The bird aims – the snake’s head now bashed
On rocks, the snake’s head, thrashed and smashed.
Hammering the snake’s head,
Till it’s broken and dead —
The snake’s crown is thus cracked and crashed.
This showdown, so furious and fast,
Ends with the rattler breathing his last;
The snake thought he found prey,
But on that fateful day,
‘Twas the snake as roadrunner’s repast!
Of this duel, the moral is clear
(If, your own life, you would hold dear):
A predator, one day,
On the next, may be prey!
And Mama Roadrunner, you’d best fear!
Roadrunners are fast. These chaparral birds live in deserts and xeric scrub (such as sage-dominated scrublands), and in other rural and semi-rural regions of America’s Southwest, feeding on bugs, scorpions, lizards, and snakes.
But can roadrunners survive showdowns with diamondback rattlesnakes? Yes! Although roadrunners are famous for running from danger, they aggressively attack rattlesnakes, face to face—i.e., bill to fangs! Amazingly, God has so designed the roadrunner that it can speedily aim at the face and fangs of a striking rattle, using its pointed bill to bite (and clamp) onto the rattler’s open mouth, between the upper fangs, rapidly lock-biting the snake in a death-grip. Then the bird repeatedly thrashes and crushes the serpent’s head against rocks—killing the rattlesnake. The victorious roadrunner then eats the dead diamondback!(2)
The arid, torrid wastelands that we call deserts are relatively inhospitable, for most creatures, yet God has providentially fitted some animals to fill desert habitats—such as desert rats, rabbits, roadrunners, and rattlesnakes.(3)
God loves variety! (For some Bible-based analysis regarding this timeless truth, see “Valuing God’s Variety”, posted at http://www.icr.org/article/valuing-gods-variety/ .)
Desert-dwelling creatures — like Roadrunners (or Diamondback Rattlesnakes!) — daily demonstrate that fact, for those who have eyes to see. And sometimes, if you happen to live in the America’s Southwest, you need not journey all the way out to a desert, to see such God-created marvels as the resilient roadrunner. (Meep, meep!)
(1) Esther 7:10.
(2) “Roadrunner vs. Rattlesnake”, National Geographic video clip, posted at http://video.nationalgeographic.com/tv/roadrunner-vs-rattlesnake .
(3) Many creatures are providentially fitted to fill hot or cold desert (and similar xeric scrub) habitats, e.g., the Sage Grouse, named for its sagebrush-nesting habits and for eating sagebrush buds and leaves. See James A. MacMahon, Deserts (Alfred A. Knopf, 1986), especially page 583 & plate 545. See also, generally, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, Desert Animals: Physiological Problems of Heat and Water (Dover Publications, 1979), especially pages 204-224 (desert birds) & pages 225-251 (desert reptiles).
Rattlesnake showdown with Roadrunner: National Geographic video
Roadrunner approaching Rattlesnake: Viral Portal
Roadrunner bites Rattlesnake: Pinterest
Roadrunner biting/smashing Rattler: Viral Portal
Roadrunner thrashing/crushing Rattler’s head: National Geographic video
Roadrunner running in desert: San Diego Union Tribune
Roadrunner eating Rattle: Kami.com
Roadrunner on patio table: original source unknown / RockDoveBlog
Thanks for reviewing the showdown of Roadrunner vs. Rattlesnake. It appears that the roadrunner is impervious to rattler venom when eating one, as well as the venom of scorpions when the bird eats one of them. That unusual aspect of the roadrunner’s immune system is providential bioengineering equipment for desert living, to say the least!
Interesting information, really great pics.
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Wow! What an amazing ability the Roadrunner has. Thanks for providing such an event with us.
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Amazing is right! — 2 of my grandsons watched the National Geo video, of the Rattler-vs.-Roadrunner showdown, and they were astounded!
Thanks for sharing this fascinating and very interesting aspect of the roadrunner it is an amazing bird
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Since we have snakes, occasionally, in our backyard area, it’s nice to see a roadrunner scouting about, every now and then — it’s like having a diligent (and speedy) sentry, to monitor the neighborhood.
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