Greater Roadrunners are beloved Cuckoos with many endearing nicknames. Some of these include Snake Killer, Paisano, and Chaparral Cock. This species flourishes in arid regions, but they are just as often found in the foothills of Colorado. Its feeding habits are mostly opportunistic, so it predates on several insects, birds, reptiles, and rodents.
10 Amazing Facts About Greater Roadrunners
1.In absence of other food sources, Greater Roadrunners may devour their own young!
Greater Roadrunners are opportunistic birds that feed on a variety of foods. Around 90% of their diet is dependant on animal matter, mainly insects, scorpions, and spiders. When these foods are not readily available due to bad weather, the presence of other predators, etc., these birds might have to eat their own young to survive. Although a rare occurrence, it has been observed consistently by ornithologists.
2.Greater Roadrunners thrive dispite being popular game for illegal hunters!
Illegal hunting has affected Greater Roadrunner populations for decades. Hunters have consistently targeted these birds under the wrong notion that they predate on the eggs and the young of other popular game species.
3.Two Roadrunners might collaborate to hunt larger prey!
Greater Roadrunners are omnivores who are opportunistic in regard to their diet. 90% of their food consists of animal matter, and the rest is made up of fruits and seeds. Most of their prey is considerably smaller in size. Caterpillars, insects, and arthropods are consistently preyed on by them. They often flash the white spots on their wings to startle their prey and then capture it with their bills. Handling smaller prey is easy for them for the most part, but larger prey requires more precision in their technique. While hunting snakes, two Roadrunners might work together to successfully kill them. One distracts it while the other kills it with a blow to the head.
4. Greater Roadrunners are experts at adapting to arid weather conditions!
Greater Roadrunners are known to undergo behavioral and physiological adaptations to thrive in arid weather conditions. They adapt to such hot climates by decreasing the excess heat left in their body through sweating. Hatchlings learn to maintain their internal body temperature by the time they are only 5 days old. In addition, adult Roadrunners conserve water through reabsorption of the mucosa from their ceca, cloaca, and rectum. The nasal glands of Roadrunners also secrete excess salt.
5.Adults can meet 7.5% of their water requirements by eating the feces of their young!
Greater Roadrunners need approximately 120-180 ml of water intake per day. If this cannot be maintained, these birds begin to lose weight and energy. Sometimes when water is not readily available they have to rely on eating other animals such as reptiles and rodents to maintain the amount of water in their bodies. Well, luckily for them, the fecal sacs of their young are a consistent source of water.
6. Greater Roadrunners usually try to escape from predators!
If Greater Roadrunner nests are being ambushed by predators such as snakes, these birds might begin to get aggressive to drive them away. These encounters are almost always successful for these birds as they are quick at evading attacks from snakes, and they are experts at making swift jabs at snakes. Generally, these birds avoid encounters with predators if possible. When their nests are attacked by aerial predators, Greater Roadrunners try to distract them, and they evade attacks by dodging them.
7.Breeding males are always heavier than non-breeding males!
Both male and female Greater Roadrunners incubate their eggs. Except for perhaps 1 hour in the afternoon, their eggs are continuously incubated. Females usually incubate during the day, while the eggs are exclusively incubated by the males at night. As nights are significantly cooler, more heat is required for incubating the eggs at night. Males generate this heat by increasing their metabolism, a process that increases energy expenditure by 36%. So, breeding males maintain a heavier body mass to sustain themselves during night incubation.
8.Female Greater Roadrunners accept dummy eggs into their nests!
In an experiment, dummy eggs were introduced to a Greater Roadrunner’s nest. The sizes and colors of these eggs were inconsistent, but the female still accepted them as her own and did not abandon the nest. These eggs were removed and added from this nest in order to gauge the female’s reaction, but it did not affect her behavior or her fidelity to the nest. In another instance, a nest that had 2 eggs of another bird species was abandoned by the adults.
9.Greater Roadrunners can maintain impressive speeds while running!
As their name states, these birds can travel long distances on foot. They consistently maintain speeds above 19 mph for long periods of time. When changing their direction at this speed, they swing their tail from one side to another. This behavior is also typical of rudders. Greater Roadrunners prefer running on roads, stream beds, or rough paths. They typically avoid paths that have a presence of dense vegetation. The physiology of these birds is also structured in a way that their stability and balance during running is maintained. These birds are not particularly built for flying, so they mostly perform extended wing gliding.
10. Greater Roadrunner’s courtship displays last for hours!
During the early courtship displays, Greater Roadrunners chase their partners for hours on end. These chases are vigorous, and they often include some low gliding flights. Clacking calls are made by both birds, while the pursuing bird approaches the pursued bird with its tail and wings raised. Although clacking calls are made frequently by both birds, the coo call is exclusively made by the male while being perched on an elevated structure. Another common display made by this species is called the stick display. In this display, one Greater Roadrunner approaches another
with a stick in its beak. This stick is sometimes passed directly to the beak of the other member, and sometimes the stick is dropped at its feet.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
- Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription$10.00 / month
- Kid & Adult Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $72.00 sign-up fee
- Kids Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $19.00 sign-up fee
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Greater Roadrunners
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Greater Roadrunners are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
- Birding Binoculars$49.99
- Kids Binoculars$13.99