Quail Management | Do Roadrunners Eat Quail?
By: Justin Bryan
It seems that we as wildlife biologists, landowners, and quail management professionals, that work and live in quail country, are never far from the question, “Do roadrunners eat quail?” To try and answer this question a cooperative study between Oklahoma State University and Texas Parks and Wildlife was conducted in the spring and summer of 1997 and 1998 at the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area in south Texas. A total of 118 roadrunners were harvested, with their stomachs subsequently analyzed for the existence of prey species.
Per the study researchers found:
Grasshoppers were the most common prey item being found in more than 93% of the stomachs studied. Other commonly occurring arthropods were leaf-footed bugs, darkling beetles, dung beetles, and jumping spiders. Terrestrial snails were also a common food item.
Reptiles occurred in 35% of the stomachs examined…identified reptiles include Texas spotted whiptail, Texas horned lizard, southern prairie lizard, Texas spiny lizard, Schott’s whipsnake, ground snake, Texas blind snake, Texas patchnose snake, and a hatchling yellow mud turtle.
Mammals detected in the diet include desert cottontail rabbit, hispid cotton rat, and Merriam’s pocket mouse.
Birds in the diet included 2 northern bobwhite quail, 1 pyrruhoxia, and 1 juvenile roadrunner.
Prickly pear cactus fruit was the most common fruit encountered in the stomachs examined.
So what does this tell us about quail management? “Do roadrunners eat quail?” Essentially that roadrunners are very opportunistic diners…if a prey items sits still long enough for them to catch it or it is in such abundance it is hard for them to avoid it, they will eat it.
Is the roadrunner a major prey species on quail? Likely not, there are plenty of other prey species that are much easier to catch than a bobwhite quail. As biologists and quail management professionals, I believe we need to be more concerned about creating and maintaining ideal quail habitat on our land and hunting properties so that the negative impact from possible quail predators can be minimized.