Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)


Class: Aves
Order: Cuculiformes
Family:    Cuculidae
Size:    Length: 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 cm)  Tail: 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm)
Weight: 8 to 24 ounces (227 to 680 g)
Diet: Insects, small rodents, birds, lizards, snakes, fruit and seeds
Distribution: Southwestern U.S., Mexico
Young:  2 to 12 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  None
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Average 7 to 8 years



     In Mexio, the roadrunner is called a paisano, meaning countryman.

     Roadrunners belong to the cuckoo family.

     A roadrunner was once clocked running at 26 miles per hour (42 kph).

     Another name for the greater roadrunner is chaparral cock.


Roadrunners are large, black-and-white mottled ground birds with a distinctive head crest. They have strong feet, an oversized bill and a long, white-tipped tail that they use as a rudder to help them change direction quickly.



Greater roadrunners live in the deserts, grasslands and open woodlands of southwestern U.S.A. and Mexico, including the Mojave, Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts.


Feeding Habits

Greater roadrunners feed on a variety of organisms, including insects, small rodents, birds, lizards and snakes. They are so quick that they can even catch a rattlesnake darting along the ground or a dragonfly flying through the air. They only eat small portions at a time, waiting for the food to digest before being able to eat any more.



During mating, males offer females food, but they only let the females eat the food after mating. Males woo females with a variety of cooing sounds. Roadrunners are monogamous, and both of them care for the young. Females build nests from twigs, grass, leaves, feathers and snakeskin in a shrub or low tree. They lay several white eggs over a period of three days, which results in a staggered hatching. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for approximately 20 days, with males doing most of the incubating. After the eggs are hatched, both parents bring food to the young. If a stranger approaches, the male will try to draw the intruderís attention away from the nest. The young roadrunners are up and running by 18 days and are able to find their own food at three weeks of age. They leave the nest shortly afterwards.



Roadrunners are extremely fast runners that move at speeds of about 15 miles per hour (24 kph). They are weak and clumsy flyers that tire quickly and therefore prefer to stay on the ground. During the cold desert nights, roadrunners let their temperature drop to save energy, and warm themselves the next morning, exposing a black skin patch on their back to the sun until their body temperature rises. Only males who are incubating do not allow their temperatures to drop, because they need their heat in order to keep the eggs warm overnight. 



Greater roadrunners are not of conservation concern at this time.



Greater Roadrunner Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US