This month's TOPIC: Hit the Ground Running: Roadrunners of Southern California. SPEAKER: Mark Mendelsohn.
Mendelsohn is a biologist for the National Park Service and the Mountains Restoration Trust. He wrote his thesis on roadrunners. His presentation focuses on the impact of habitat loss on the species, which has nearly disappeared from parts of Southern California, including parts of Malibu where it was once relatively common.
Although earlier research pointed to habitat fragmentation as a major cause of the species decline, Mendelsohn’s work seems to indicate that the quality of the habitat rather than the size may be key.
According to Mendelsohn, coastal California roadrunners’ preferred habitat is coastal sage scrub, one of the most threatened and rapidly vanishing ecosystems on earth.
Mendelsohn has found a higher population of the species in the less developed western end of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains, than in the more densely developed southern section.
While the species is not considered to be at risk, the decline is troubling.
ON THE OTHER HAND, this is not going to be a depressing presentation. Mark has great affection for our indigenous roadrunner and wants to communicate strategies for preserving the habitat that makes this unique, fearless and amusing bird (who among us can think "Roadrunner" without hearing "Meep-Meep!" in our head?) one of the Southwest's most iconic residents.