Greater Roadrunner


Scientific Name

Geococcyx californianus

Species Survival Plan



Deserts, shrubland or dry, open country with scattered brush


Coyote, hawk, raccoon, snake, skunk and cat


Invertebrates, lizards, snakes, small mammals, small birds, eggs, fruits and seeds

Originally Native To

Southwestern U.S.


10 - 12 inches


8 - 22 ounces


Brown feathers streaked with white; bushy crest; long bill; very long tail; wings are short and rounded

Gestation Period

18 - 29 days


2 - 6 eggs

Birth Season

1 - 2 broods per year


Wild 7 - 8 years
Captivity ?

Social Behavior

Monogamous and solitary


About Greater Roadrunner

The greater roadrunner, a ground cuckoo also known as the chaparral cock, is easily spotted by its distinctive appearance consisting of a black-and-white mottled feather pattern, stout legs, and a distinctive head crest. It is the state bird of New Mexico and noted for its quickness that gives it the ability to catch rattlesnakes and hummingbirds.

The roadrunner prefers to walk or run rather than using its short wings to fly, which it can do for only a short distance due to its large body size. Its feet possess two forward-facing toes and two backward-facing toes – a characteristic of cuckoos – and its tail is held at an upward angle.

A number of adaptations make the roadrunner well-suited to its desert environment. It eats mostly meat, which provides moisture in a dry environment, and therefore its need for water is decreased. It reabsorbs water from its feces before excretion and uses a gland in the nasal system to eliminate excess salt, which is done through the urinary tract in most birds.

During the heat of the day, roadrunners will reduce their activity by 50 percent and at night they will lower their body temperature and function. At sunrise, roadrunners expose a dark patch of skin found between their wings so they can get back to their regular temperature by absorbing the sun’s warmth.

Breeding occurs during the spring, at which time the male will offer food to the female. Both sexes will collect twigs, but it is the female who does the actual construction of a shallow, saucer-like nest in which she lays 2-6 eggs.

The egg laying spans about three days to assure the hatching times will be staggered. Like the ostrich, the male usually takes his turn sitting on the nest at night, and the female handles the daytime duty of incubation.

In about 18 days, the chicks start fledging and will stick around the nest for a couple of weeks before beginning their desert existence.

Obviously, as a small native species, a roadrunner could potentially be seen in any of the Fossil Rim pastures.


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