Roadrunner Bird Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is one of the fastest birds on land. The bird’s body is not only built for the speed but can also survive on the harshest deserts. The ground-dwelling bird is found in the southwestern United States. Roadrunners are capable to hunt rattlesnakes and their speed is even more than that of humans. It is also called ‘ground cuckoo’.

Roadrunner Bird Facts


  • Adult roadrunner grows up to 52–62 cm (20–24 in) in body length with a wingspan measuring up to 43–61 cm (17–24 in).
  • The average weight of greater roadrunner is about 221–538 g (7.8–19.0 oz).
  • Adult roadrunners stand 25–30 cm (9.8–11.8 in) tall. It is the America’s largest cuckoo.
  • It is nearly the size of a Common Raven.
  • The greater roadrunner is recognized by its long neck and legs with a tail that is fairly straight.
  • There is a short crest over the head but the bill is quite heavy.
  • Greater roadrunners have got tan and blackish plumage. They have got streaky brown feathers and tail which is help up while running.
roadrunner bird facts
Greater Roadrunner ©

Habitat & Range

  • Greater roadrunners have adapted to live on the shrubby expanses of deserts where most other birds give up. They also make habitats in open country which especially which is abundant in small trees.
  • They are found around the Mississippi River. Roadrunners also live in the Louisiana and Missouri.
  • Roadrunners also occupy the semi-open habitats in the northern California. The greater roadrunner’s habitats include riparian woodlands, chaparral, tamarisk, canyons, and mesquite. Their habitats are found at an altitude of about 10,000 feet above sea level. They also make habitats below the sea level.
  • At higher altitudes roadrunners prefer to choose sites such as cholla grasslands and pinyon-juniper woodlands.
  • They are widely distributed throughout the United States including eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, and southwest Missouri.
  • Roadrunners are less likely to occupy areas dominated by scrubby woods, hardwood stands, red juniper, and loblolly pine forests.


  • True to its name greater roadrunners spend many hours on the ground for a simple reason that they are extremely good runners.
  • You don’t often see roadrunners perching on tree except on a fence post or a telephone wire.
  • It is a highly territorial species and may drive off predators like lizards and large rodents.
  • While they are regular runners they may nevertheless jump high enough to catch insects and small birds during flight.
  • The greater roadrunner doesn’t seem to be comfortable during flight.
  • During broad daylight hours they may take sunbath.
  • They will also produce sounds like coo-cooo-coooo.
  • Roadrunners are capable to eat even the poisonous of the prey such as scorpions and lizards.
  • They are able to reach speeds of about 26 mph (42 km/h) on land. It is the fastest flying bird on land.
  • They have got the ability to retake water from their feces. It really helps them to thrive in the dry arid habitats.
  • During the bright sunlight they will seek shades.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • The greater roadrunner is a carnivorous bird and it feeds on a wide variety of animals. This includes small mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, scorpions, toads, centipedes, and frogs. Insects include grasshoppers and beetles.
  • They are also thought to consume carrion and bird eggs.
  • Roadrunners are very familiar snake-eaters. Prominent among the snakes is a rattlesnake. The bird has got a way of killing larger prey that is to say it strikes the prey against a rock multiple times until the prey dies. The roadrunner then swallows the entire prey.
  • During winter, roadrunners supplement their diet with some fruits and seeds. Plants only make up 10% of the bird’s diet.
roadrunner bird facts
Greater Roadrunner killing a rattlesnake

Reproductive Biology

  • The clutch size is 2 – 6 white eggs. Each year 1 – 2 broods are raised.
  • Male roadrunner brings female all the necessary materials for building nests. The depth of the nest is about 4 inches with a diameter measuring up to 17 inches and a height of 8 inches.
  • The nest is lined with materials such as feathers, leaves, snakeskin, and grasses.
  • Both parents do not stop working on the nest even when the chicks are grown up. They will also build the sides of the nest. They may also use the same nesting site again the next year.
  • They become mature at 2 years of age.
  • Young birds will learn to fly 18 days after their birth.
  • The incubation period lasts 19 – 20 days. Both parents incubate the eggs.
  • The breeding interval is one year.
  • The greater roadrunner’s eggs are 1.4–1.8 in (3.5–4.6 cm) long with the width averaging 1.1–1.3 in (2.8–3.3 cm).
  • They will build nests 3 – 10 feet high into the trees. The nests are usually built on the branches of cactus.
  • The maximum lifespan of a roadrunner is about 7 – 8 years.

Conservation Status

Least Concern


  1. I have a very large roadrunner sleeping in a large cactus in my yard but only at night. Will he find a mate and will they build a nest…I see him during the day some times. Usually when he is bathing in one of my bird baths or getting a drink. I hope he deos find a mate and nest and has a family in my yard…How long before I know if he will mate or is he just finding it nice to sleep in my cactus. I think they mate for life. Is this true. What ever he does I feel very blessed to have in him in my yard…

  2. A friend has roadrunner no poops all over their porch and even smeared it on their window. Does he see himself and think he is another male, is he marks g his territory?

  3. I just found a small roadrunner……in a tree in my yard…very close to my house…..he ignored my pack of yappin dogs….groomed a bit…then…just flapped down on outside of yard….and dissapeared. He has been around for at least a week. Pretty small….but…looks healthy….the county road i live on is usually a good place this time of year….as i have seen as many as 4 in a day at different times. Im from texas….so….i had missed seeing them…

  4. We live in Albuquerque, NM and have seen roadrunners around the neighborhood for years and occasionally see one sun bathing in our yard. Last night our daughter stopped by to pick up something and when I opened the front door she asked when we put that up, pointing at the security camera. When I looked at what she was pointing at, I was surprised to see a roadrunner perched on the camera. I told her we didn’t put it there that is was a live roadrunner…she didn’t believe us. I Think he stopped breathing. We finally convinced her the thing was real.

  5. We have had a roadrunner in our yard for several weeks. So cool. We live in Kingman, AZ. This is only the second one that we have seen in many years.

  6. My husband feeds his roadrunners every day. They jump up on the swamp cooler and look through the window. It is sad when the babies grow up and the parents chase them away. The roadrunners will come right up to him as he throws raw meat to them. Also, we are now rattlesnake free. Apple Valley, CA desert.

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