A member of the cuckoo family, the long legged Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is an icon of the desert southwest in part to the artistic efforts of Warner Brothers and their animated series featuring “Wile E Coyote”. Road runners are aptly named and may reach a top speed of 26 mph on the ground. Anyone who attempts to stalk them will note their speed and agility as they effortlessly out distance the stalker.
The road runner is a larger bird than one might realize and typically is between 20 and 24 inches in length. The bird is typically between 10 and 12 inches in height and boasts a wing span on 17 to 24 inches. The upper body is a shade of brown with black streaks and may feature pink spots. This pattern helps break up the outline of the bird and helps provide camouflage. The lower body is commonly white or ran in appearance. The head features a prominent crest of brown features.
Despite the branding and name, the greater roadrunner is capable of flight, although it spends most of its time on the ground. This animal can be found at most elevations between -200 and 7500 feet and favors semi arid scrubland with scattered low lying vegetation. The bird spends its time hunting and stalking its prey. Once sighted prey is quickly run down by the fast legs of this peditor. Common prey items include spiders, insects, scorpions, mice, small birds and lizards and even rattlesnakes.
The greater roadrunner typically forms long pair bonds with its mate. Typically, clutches of 3 – 6 eggs are laid in the spring months. The nests of this bird are commonly found in low brush and cactus and are built by the male. Common with other cuckoos, the roadrunner are known to lay eggs in the nests of other birds, such as the raven.