Friday, March 16, 2012

Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a ground-cuckoo of the Mojave, Chichuahuan and southern Great Basin deserts in the Southwestern US  and Mexico.  In Spanish, it is called "El Correcaminos".   

This bird can reach running speeds of 30 km/hr (18.6 mi/hr).  When running at top speed, it holds its head and tail flat and parallel to the ground, using the long tail as a rudder to keep balance.   Beep Beep!

The Greater Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico.  Officially adopted March 16, 1949 under the name "Chaparral Bird".

John James Audubon did not know of its existence and it was not included in the 1840 edition of Birds of America.

I came across this particular bird near a one-lane bridge spanning the San Pedro
River. It was much more intent on searching for a meal than it was about my proximity. I don't think these birds are afraid of much.

The roadrunner diet includes venomous prey items, such as scorpions, spiders, and rattlesnakes. Two birds may cooperate to kill a large snake.  Generally, they eat anything smallish that moves.  Roadrunners will invade feeder areas and grab small birds.  One was observed to leap up from hiding in a dry riverbed and knock down a low-flying White-throated Swift.

Roadrunners are 10-12" high; about 20-24" long; weigh in from 8-24 oz and live 7-8 years.

To warm up after a cold desert night, a roadrunner will turn its back to the sun, fluff its back feathers, and expose skin along its back. This skin is black in order to absorb more solar energy.

The desert-dwelling roadrunner uses salt glands in front of its eyes to excrete excess salt from its blood. Such glands are common in ocean-going birds that can drink seawater. The roadrunner is able to get along without drinking water if it eats food with high enough water content, but it will drink readily if water is available.

Yes,  there is a Lesser Roadrunner - in Mexico.  Visit this site to see it and a photo of a roadrunner running.

Information about the Greater Roadrunner from:


  1. Great photos Kathy, I am enjoying your photos of birds that you are seeing in Arizona.

    1. Thanks, PB. It's a very interesting place.