Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), is a large, long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. It is one of the two roadrunner species in the genus Geococcyx. The roadrunner is also known as the Chaparral Cock.

The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It can be seen in the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas,and rarely in Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana. The Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico.

The adult is about 22 inches long with a bushy crest and long thick dark bill. It has a long dark tail, a dark head and back, and is pale on the front of the neck and on the belly. Roadrunners have four toes; two face forward, and two face backward. This bird walks rapidly about, running down prey or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or birds. It mainly feeds on insects, small reptiles, rodents, tarantulas, scorpions and small birds.

The Greater Roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in 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. Although capable of flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of 15 miles per hour or more.

The Greater Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico, USA. The Hopi and Pueblo Indian tribes believed that the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits.

Photo Credit: Derek Evatt