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Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

greater roadrunner

Click on thumbnails below:

on cholla close up

DESCRIPTION: L=23" (58cm). Sexes similar. Back and wings heavily streaked brown and white. Has long tail, often held up at an angle (as pictured). Has very expressive crest that can be raised and lowered. Bill is heavy. Has two toes facing forward and two toes facing backward, making tracks that look like Xs.
SONG: a surprisingly beautiful, descending cooing (afterall, it is a member of the cuckoo family, but surprising compared to the beep beep of the cartoon).
NATURAL HISTORY: Diet consists mostly of animals (insects, reptiles, rodents, birds, etc.), but will occasionally eat fruit (mostly from cactus) and seeds. Can run 15 mph and will fly when necessary. Pairs stay together on their territory year-round. Eggs are laid over a period of days and the young hatch over a period of days too (asynchronous hatching). A result of asynchronous hatching is that there is a range of sizes among siblings, thus abilities to compete for food the parents bring to them. If there is enough food, then the younger siblings get a chance to eat after the older siblings fill up. But if food supplies are inadequate, then the food has to be divided among fewer offspring, because the younger siblings starve (and may even be fed to the larger siblings). Adults undergo torpor at night to save energy and water (except for incubating males who maintain high body temperature to keep eggs warmer) and then bask in morning to save energy heating back up. When basking, they squat on the ground, with wings spread and back feathers open to allow sunlight to penetrate to black skin underneath.