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Greater Roadrunner

Scientific Name: Geococcyx californianus

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN Red List


The roadrunner is known by many as the speedy bird from Warner Bros. cartoons who could always outrun Wile E. Coyote. This bird does actually prefer ground travel to flying and is able to cover short distances at speeds of 15 miles per hour—but that’s not fast enough to outrun a coyote, which can run up to 40 mph. Roadrunners are quick enough to catch and eat rattlesnakes. They often work in pairs with one bird distracting the snake by jumping and flapping its wings while the second bird sneaks up from behind to pin the snake’s head. Prey is smashed against a rock, then consumed whole. Roadrunners can also leap into the air to catch birds and insects. Quite the desert predator, roadrunners are even able to nab scorpions, grabbing them by their venomous tails.


Roadrunners are found throughout the west and southwestern U.S. and parts of Mexico. They prefer arid climates with desert plants and brush.


Omnivores, their diet includes crickets, grasshoppers, lizards, snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, mice, and birds. Roadrunners will also eat fruit, such as the prickly pear, and seeds when live prey is not an option.

Physical Characteristics

The greater roadrunner is about 20 percent larger than its cousin, the lesser roadrunner. Greater roadrunners typically reach 20–24 inches in length and weigh about 12 ounces. Males are slightly larger. Lifespan in the wild is 7–8 years.


You’ll find this bird in the “Animals of the Drylands” section. See Zoo Map.

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