What is a Greater Roadrunner?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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Common to the American Southwest, the greater roadrunner is a medium-sized bird that is a member of the cuckoo family. An adult roadrunner is typically between 20 to 24 inches (about 50 to 62 cm) in length and stands 10 to 12 inches (about 25 to 30 cm) high. The creatures are known for their long tails and dark bills. Non-migratory creatures, greater roadrunners can fly when necessary, but prefer to walk or run. Roadrunners are able to zoom up to speeds of 19 miles per hour (about 30 km per hour).

Known scientifically as Geococcyx californianus, the greater roadrunner possesses a distinct back crest of feathers, while its head, neck, and back are darkly colored. Throughout its body, the creature has white splotches along with a white belly. Possessing yellow eyes and blue legs and beaks, the bird is a zygodactylous animal as it has two toes that point forward and two toes that point rearward. Both males and females are similar in color.


The greater roadrunner typically has a life span of about eight years. The birds live in deserts, grasslands, and agricultural areas. They favor areas that have scattered brush for hiding. The creatures can be found in states including California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Besides the United States, the greater roadrunner also live in southern Mexico. The birds deal with their warm climate by entering a hypothermic state at night, which lets them conserve energy and during the day, the creatures limit their activity.

An omnivore, the bird eats a variety of prey. In addition to feeding on cactus and fruit, the roadrunner preys on poisonous creatures such as scorpions, spiders, and even rattlesnakes. In addition, the bird feeds on small creatures including mice, insects, and hummingbirds. The roadrunner often kills its prey by crushing its head against a rock and swallowing the prey whole.

Males will attempt to woo females with food. Males will entice females with a small creature hanging from its beak. If the female takes the food from the male, the pair will often mate for life. Males also may attempt to lure a female by making a buzzing or cooing noise and leaping in the air.

Females construct nests made from materials collected by the males. Nests are built with sticks, feathers, and grass. Females typically lay two to eight eggs. Both males and females take turn incubating the eggs, which take about three weeks to hatch. Chicks are able to fly within three weeks.


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