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Greater Roadrunner

Geococcyx californianus


Cuculidae, the cuckoo family

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN.


Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.


Deserts and semi-arid areas.


Their body temperature drops 7 degrees on a cold night, thus reducing their metabolism and saving energy. They warm up in morning by sunbathing, backs toward sun, back feathers raised, exposing patches of black skin that absorb heat and raise their temperature back to the normal 101 degrees.

Roadrunners have long beaks, short rounded wings, streaky brown feathers-dark above, light below – a crest that rises and falls when walking and bare red and blue patches of skin behind their eyes. They can fly but prefer to walk or run.

They are diurnal carnivores, eating whatever they can catch and swallowing it whole. Their diet provides all of their water needs. Salt glands concentrate and eliminate salts to conserve water.

Adults are taken by eagles or large hawks and young by Bobcats or ringtails.

Roadrunners mate for life. Males court females with a series of descending coos then present gifts such as lizards. After more cooing, more courting displays and, finally, mating, a nest of sticks is built in a shrub, low tree or cactus and, in late spring, 2-6 eggs are laid. Both parents share in incubation and feeding, which begins with the first egg. If food is scarce, only the larger older chicks will survive. Young roadrunners fledge at about 3 weeks and begin hunting for their own food.


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