Greater Roadrunner Facts and Photos

Information about the Bird Greater Roadrunner

The greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae, from Southwestern United States and Mexico. The Latin name means "Californian earth-cuckoo". Along with the lesser roadrunner, it is one of two species in the roadrunner genus Geococcyx. This roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.

The roadrunner is about 52-62cm (20-24in) long, has a 43-61cm (17-24in) wingspan and weighs 221-538g (7.8-19.0oz). It stands around 25-30cm (9.8-11.8in) tall and is the largest cuckoo of the Americas. Roadrunners have 4 toes on each zygodactyl foot; two face forward, and two face backward. The toes are brown in color and have pale gold spots. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and sometimes pink spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye; the blue is replaced by white in adult males (except the blue adjacent to the eye), and the orange (to the rear) is often hidden by feathers.
The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It can be seen regularly in the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and less frequently in Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the Mexican states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacn, Quertaro, Mxico, Puebla, Nuevo Len, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potos.
The greater roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3-6 eggs, which hatch in 20 days. The chicks fledge in another 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood.
This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey. It feeds mainly on small animals including insects, spiders (including black widows), tarantulas, scorpions, mice, small birds and especially lizards and small snakes. Venomous serpents, including small rattlesnakes, are readily consumed. It kills prey by holding the victim in its bill and slamming it repeatedly against the ground.
Although capable of limited flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20mph (32km/h). Cases where roadrunners have run as fast as 26mph (42km/h) have been reported. This is the fastest running speed clocked for a flying bird, but not nearly as fast as the 43mph (70km/h) of the flightless and much larger ostrich.
Some Pueblo Native American tribes, including the Hopi, believed the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies, as the white stork was said to in Europe. Some Anglo frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails.
The greater roadrunner is the basis for the Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes cartoon character Road Runner, a bird who uses his speed and cunning to outmaneuver his enemy, Wile E. Coyote, though real coyotes are faster than roadrunners.
The Plymouth Road Runner, named after that same Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes cartoon character, was a performance car built by Plymouth from 1968 to 1980.
The roadrunner appeared in a 1982 sheet of 20-cent United States stamps showing 50 state birds and flowers, being the state bird of New Mexico.
Hoese, William; Anticona, Steve; Olmos, Erik; Parent, John; Rutti, Donald; Velasco, Beth (March 2013). "Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) Kills Juvenile Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii)". Southwestern Naturalist. 58 (1): 124-126. doi:10.1894/0038-4909-58.1.124.

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