Greater roadrunners, geococcyx califorianus, are signature desert birds in the southwestern United States. They measure 20 to 21 (52 to 54 centimeters) in length with a wingspan of around 19 inches (49 centimeters). They weigh only 7.8 to 19 ounces (221 to 538 grams) and are swift runners. Greater roadrunners are capable of running at speeds of 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) per hour. When running at top speed, they will hold their heads and backs flat and parallel to the ground.
Greater roadrunners can be found throughout the Southern United States including Arizona, Texas and New Mexico among others as well as Mexico. They tend to inhabit desert areas that have scattered brush areas and open land. Greater roadrunners make their nests out of thorny sticks lined with leaves, feathers, grass, snakeskin and other various materials. Their nests are usually located in a small tree, thorny bush or a cactus. When greater roadrunners get hot, they will turn their backs to the sun and fluff their feathers back to expose the skin on their backs. This skin is actually black, which enables them to absorb solar energy easily.
The diet of greater roadrunners consists of things like lizards, rodents, insects and small birds. They also eat many venomous creatures including spiders, scorpions and rattlesnakes. Greater roadrunners are fierce predators that will chase down their prey and sometimes snatch them right out of the air. They will beat large prey against rocks in order to incapacitate them. Sometimes roadrunners will pair up in order to take down a large snake. They can go without water as long as they consume food with high water content, but will still drink if the opportunity presents itself.
Mating season for greater roadrunners takes place from August to September depending on the amount of rainfall the region has had to ensure there are enough resources for parents and chicks. When 1 rainfall period occurs, there will only be 1 nesting period while 2 rainfall periods means both August and September will have nesting periods. Greater roadrunner males will chase females, try to entice them with food or bow their heads to them in order to get their attention. Once a female chooses a mate, they stay together for life. Males will collect the materials to build a nest while females are in charge of construction. Females will lay 2 to 8 eggs in the nest and both parents will take turns incubating them until they hatch, which takes around 20 days. Chicks are able to leave the nest after about 18-21 days, but will still be fed by their mother for another 40 days or so.
Greater roadrunners are not endangered or even threatened. In fact, their range has actually expanded. Hopefully, they never need to worry about facing extinction like so many other animals do. After all, such a unique bird deserves to live and prosper for a very long time.
“Greater Roadrunner” 6 December 2010
“Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx Californianus)” 6 December 2010