Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Greater Roadrunner

[order] CUCULIFORMES | [family] Cuculidae | [latin] Geococcyx californianus | [UK] Greater Roadrunner | [FR] Geocoucou de Californie | [DE] Wegekuckuck | [ES] Correcaminos Grande | [NL] Grote Renkoekoek


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

The cuckoo that runs along the ground (tracks show two toes forward, two aft). A large, slender, streaked bird with a long, white-edged tail, shaggy crest, and long legs. White crescent on wing (visible when spread).

Listen to the sound of Greater Roadrunner

[audio: Roadrunner.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 47 cm wingspan max.: 52 cm
size min.: 52 cm size max.: 54 cm
incubation min.: 19 days incubation max.: 22 days
fledging min.: 19 days fledging max.: 20 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 7  


North America, Middle America : Southwest USA, Mexico


Deserts, open country with scattered brush. Most common in Sonoran desert
and in other kinds of brushy country, including chaparral and Texas brushlands, in areas with a mix of open ground and dense low cover. At limits of range, found in dry grassland, forest edges, and limestone hills with scattered junipers.


May mate for life. In courtship, one bird (either sex) approaches the other with stick or blade of grass and drops it on the ground or gives it to other bird. In other displays, m
ale runs away from female with tail and wings raised over back, gradually lowers wings; male wags tail from side to side while slowly bowing.
Nest: Site is in dense bush, low tree, or cactus, usually 2-12′ above ground, rarely on ground. Nest is platform of sticks, lined with grass, leaves, feathers, sometimes with snakeskin or pieces of cow manure.
Eggs: 3-5, sometimes 2-6. White to pale yellowish. Incubation is by both parents (male does more), about 20 days.
Young: Fed by both parents; leave the nest after about 18-21 days. May begin catching own food soon after leaving nest, but still fed by parents up to another 30-40 days.

Feeding habits

Includes insects, reptiles, rodents, birds.
Feeds on many large insects, plus other arthropods including scorpions, tarantulas, and centipedes. Also catches many lizards, snakes, mice, young ground squirrels, small birds (including baby quail and adult spar
rows), sometimes snails. Eats some fruits (especially cactus fruit) and seeds.
Usually hunts by walking rapidly, looking for prey, then making very rapid dash forward to catch prey in its bill. May leap straight up from ground to catch insects or birds flying over (has been seen catching hummingbirds this way).


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Greater Roadrunner status Least Concern


Southwestern United States to central Mexico.
Migration: Permanent resident, but some (young birds?) may wander considerable distances.

Distribution map

Greater Roadrunner distribution range map

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