Life can imitate art, but art rarely returns the favor. Take the beloved Looney Tunes cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. In the fictional wilderness where they live, the mischievous coyote can't catch the speedy bird no matter how many faulty Acme products he tries, ranging from cheese-baited traps and tainted bird food to guided rockets and giant rubber bands. Forget about a flat-out footrace. If Wile E. even takes a step toward the Road Runner -- souped-up sneakers or no -- the feathered prey zips off at lightning speed, leaving Mr. Coyote in a dust cloud. While that might be fine to most TV viewers, anyone doing some fact-checking would be flummoxed by the truth: Coyotes in the real world are much speedier than roadrunners. Quoting ornithologist Mark Lockwood, the website 10,000 Birds says roadrunners top out at 20 mph (32 kph), while coyotes more than double that pace, reaching speeds of 43 mph (69 kph). If that stings a little, cartoon lovers can take comfort in knowing that not only do roadrunners zig and zag, using ground cover to escape predators, but they can also fly. Animators probably skipped that part in the cartoons, lest they'd have Wile E. Coyote looking to the sky empty-handed.
The real world of roadrunners and coyotes:
- While the Road Runner seems sweet, the birds are actually as predatory as coyotes, typically catching and dining on mice, lizards, frogs, and other small creatures.
- Coyotes are omnivores that hunt at night; if they can't find prey, they will eat grass and fruit.
- On one level, the fact that Wile E. Coyote never catches the Road Runner mirrors reality: There is no recorded evidence of a coyote catching a roadrunner.