Almost half of the whole roadrunner population in Europe is now guest at Royal Burgers’ Zoo. Fact is that this Arnhem Zoo monitors the European population of these desert birds, consisting of only 18 birds from all EAZA Zoos (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria). Behind the scenes Burgers’ Zoo has set up a dating centre in which 8 birds participate: five males and three females. Two males even originate from San Diego Zoo (USA) and traveled respectively via Tierpark Berlin and Vogelpark Walsrode (Germany) to Arnhem.
Road runners are monogamous birds that basically form couples for life. They are rather finicky when it comes to finding a partner. The forthcoming weeks biologists and caretakers will register accurately how the birds react to one another in order to form thus the right couples with future breeding success.
Speed dating with speed merchants
Speed dating seems a proper method for the road runner, that modeled for Looney Tunes’ cartoon Road Runner and that can run as fast as 30 km per hour. This method was successfully used before to compose hornbill breeding couples, hornbills also being a self-willed kind of bird. By putting different birds in adjacent cages time and time again, caretakers and biologists can watch them carefully and monitor how specific individuals react to one another.
When two roadrunners show evident interest in one another and clearly respond to each other’s call, they will temporarily be placed together in the same accommodation. During courtship, the male perkily swings its tail up and down while parading in front of the female. Thereupon he offers the female food or nesting material which he carries in his bill.
In view of the future
As monitor of all road runners Burgers’ Zoo aims to build a healthy population of this kind of bird in zoos. The road runner is an important kind of animal in the collection of the Arnhem rocky desert, called Burgers’ Desert.