One of the reasons I'm glad we have coyotes in our area is that I figure they help keep the population of garden pests down. Actually, though, I've only seen the resident coyote with a rabbit dangling from its jaws once . Most of the time, it is just crossing the property empty-handed, so to speak. One day, he spent a bit of time chowing down on mesquite beans, a good protein source, and the droppings left scattered around are often full of beans, although some also have fur in them.
Today, I learned why I should value my resident pair of roadrunners more highly. Anyone who knows anything about roadrunners - the real ones, not the cartoon character - knows they eat snakes among other things. In fact, they eat rattlesnakes. While we haven't seen in a rattlesnake here in the year (almost) that we've been here, I still feel reassured that "my" roadrunners are helping patrol the grounds. They also eat insects, including scorpions (of which several have turned up here), small birds, and rodents.
Now when I've read their diet list before, I've always kind of assumed that the rodents they were eating were small. You know, like field mice or maybe an unlikely kangaroo rat. Uh, no. While eating our lunch today, my sweetie spotted the roadrunner out front with a large morsel in its mouth, still wiggling. We grabbed our binoculars in time to watch this roadrunner beat the living crap out of a pocket gopher. A pocket gopher, for those of you unfamiliar with them, is about the size of a large city rat.
The roadrunner kept picking it up by the loose skin and slamming it down on the ground until it finally quit moving. Unfortunately, the roadrunner then moved between some dense acacias to eat, so we weren't able to witness the gory feast. I'm super-impressed at the bird's hunting skills as it most likely pulled the gopher out of a hole in the ground. Maybe it saw dirt moving as one of the holes was back-filled from below and was able to grab a leg. In any case, we're thrilled to have some pest control assistance here and will not be following our neighbor's recommendation to poison (with strychnine!) the local gopher population.