Arizona Wildlife

A Greater Roadrunner was in the garden – Roadrunner bird pictures

At my first glance,  I thought this roadrunner looked like a hawk. The face and the large talons were the most prominent feature I saw.  The long tail and large size told me it was surely a Greater Roadrunner.   We have a bird’s nest on the porch and I was concerned the roadrunner was after the dove eggs.

picture of a Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner, classified as Geococcyx californianus, meaning “Californian Earth-cuckoo,” is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. There are only 2 species in the roadrunner genus Geococcys, the Lesser Roadrunner and the Greater Roadrunner.  The roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.   Named for its habit of running along roads in front of cars before darting off into brush, the greater roadrunner is a chicken-like bird with brown, black and white feathers. It has a recognizable crest of black feathers on its head which can be raised or lowered at will. The bird has a long tail with a blue beak and legs. Greater roadrunners are two feet long and weigh about 10 ounces.

Greater Roadrunner in Arizona

The other birds moved out of the roadrunner’s way but stayed in the tree.  The birds were not frightened of the roadrunner just seemed to bid him respect.   Mr Roadrunner sort of hopped, flying around which made it hard to take a picture.  Contrary to popular belief, the roadrunner is not a flightless bird. It has useable wings to propel it onto perches and over obstacles, but otherwise the greater roadrunner keeps its feet on the ground.  How fast is a roadrunner?  When on ground the roadrunner has a top speed of nearly 20 miles per hour, making it the fastest running bird capable of flight. It uses this speed to run down its prey of insects, snakes and small mammals.

a large roadrunner

I have seen roadrunners cross roads and pass quickly in desert parks and they seemed small to medium size.  This up close roadrunner is triple the size I imagined. The pictures do not express his true height.

Majestic Greater Roadrunner

The greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a ground-dwelling bird native to the arid deserts of the southwestern United States and much of Mexico. It is slightly larger but otherwise similar to the lesser roadrunner, which resides farther south into Central America.

Greater roadrunners make rudimentary nests out of sticks low in bushes or cacti. Mating seasons depend upon weather conditions, but when a new pair is courting, the male will attempt to impress the female roadrunner by offering her food; if she accepts the male, the two will likely mate for life. Roadrunner broods contain 2-8 eggs that must be incubated for 20 days.

Greater Roadrunner

In the wild, greater roadrunners can live up to 8 years. The mated pair will maintain and defend their territory year round. Doing so means they must avoid predation by carnivores native to the desert environment including hawks, coyotes and raccoons.  Roadrunners frequently ambush and prey upon small songbirds at bird feeders, I didn’t realize this and I will have to make some changes in our garden.

Glad I could share this with you.

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6 replies »

  1. Wow, that bird can run some!! How great is that to see one of those in ya garden 🙂 I’s only ever seen one on the telly BEEP BEEP bol 🙂
    Mollie xx

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