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Beep beep! Zoo welcomes pair of roadrunners to the UK

It is hoped that the speedy ground birds will breed at Paignton Zoo in Devon.

Californian earth cuckoos are more commonly known as roadrunners (Paignton Zoo/PA)
Californian earth cuckoos are more commonly known as roadrunners (Paignton Zoo/PA)

Wile E. Coyote never did succeed in catching the Road Runner despite resorting to the most complex contraptions to catch his nippy nemesis.

But if the cartoon villain headed to  Devon he would see the only pair of the birds at a British zoo.  And there’s hope that they will soon breed.

Peter Smallbones, senior head bird keeper at Paignton Zoo, said: “This bird hunts by chasing down its prey on foot.

In the wild it has a pretty scary diet, including tarantulas, scorpions, lizards and small – often venomous – snakes

“In the wild, it has a pretty scary diet, including tarantulas, scorpions, lizards and small – often venomous – snakes.

“It kills prey by holding victims in its bill and hitting them on the ground.”

Their zoo diet is a little less formidable, and includes small mice, Morio worms, locusts and meat balls.

Properly called Californian earth-cuckoos, they arrived from Arnham Zoo in the Netherlands.

“There’s a small population of roadrunners in zoos that are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria,” Mr Smallbones said.

“They needed other zoos to help expand and support the population.

“We volunteered to take a pair – we hope they will breed in due course.”

Roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family but unlike a minority of the species do not lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.

Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner have been featuring in the Warner Bros cartoons since 1949 and, despite the television portrayal, roadrunners do not go “beep, beep”.

In fact, they make a variety of sounds, including something that’s been described as like a Taser being discharged.

PA

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