Greater roadrunner

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Greater roadrunner
Geococcyx californianus.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cuculiformes
Family: Cuculidae
Subfamily: Neomorphinae
Genus: Geococcyx
Species: G. californianus
Binomial name
Geococcyx californianus
(Lesson, 1829)[2]
Geococcyx californianus map.svg
Range of G. californianus

The greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. The Latin name means "Californian earth-cuckoo". Along with the lesser roadrunner, it is one of two species in the roadrunner genus Geococcyx. This roadrunner is also known as the chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake killer.[3]

Description[edit]

The roadrunner is about 52–62 cm (20–24 in) long, has a 43–61 cm (17–24 in) wingspan and weighs 221–538 g (7.8–19.0 oz). It stands around 25–30 cm (9.8–11.8 in) tall and is the largest North American cuckoo.[4][5][6] The adult has a bushy crest and long, thick, dark bill. It has a long, dark tail, a dark head and back, and is blue on the front of the neck and on the belly. Roadrunners have 4 toes on each zygodactyl foot; two face forward, and two face backward. They are brown in color and have pale gold spots.

Habitat[edit]

The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It can be seen regularly in the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and less frequently in Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri,[3] as well as the Mexican states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Querétaro, México, Puebla, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí.[7]

Behavior[edit]

Greater roadrunner on the run

The greater roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3–6 eggs, which hatch in 20 days. The chicks fledge in another 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood.

Greater roadrunners measure 61 cm (2.00 ft) in length, about half of which is tail. They have long legs and a slender, pointed bill. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and sometimes pink spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye;[8] the blue is replaced by white in adult males (except the blue adjacent to the eye), and the orange (to the rear) is often hidden by feathers.[3]

This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey. It feeds mainly on small animals including insects, spiders (including black widows), tarantulas, scorpions, mice, small birds and especially lizards and small snakes. Venomous serpents, including small rattlesnakes, are readily consumed.[9] It kills prey by holding the victim in its bill and slamming it repeatedly against the ground.

Although capable of limited flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/h).[8] Cases where roadrunners have run as fast as 26 mph (42 km/h) have been reported.[10] This is the fastest running speed ever clocked for a flying bird, although it is not as fast as the flightless ostrich.[11]

Cultural references[edit]

Some Pueblo Indian tribes, such as the Hopi, believed that the Roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies, as the white stork was said to in Europe. Some Anglo frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails.[3]

The greater roadrunner is the basis for the cartoon character Road Runner,[12] a bird who uses his speed and cunning to outmaneuver his enemy, Wile E. Coyote, though real coyotes are faster than roadrunners.

The roadrunner appeared in a 1982 sheet of 20-cent United States stamps showing 50 state birds and flowers, the roadrunner being the state bird of New Mexico.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Geococcyx californianus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Geococcyx californianus (Lesson, 1829)". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 9 February 2006. 
  3. ^ a b c d Hughes, Janice M. (1996). Poole, A, ed. "Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)". The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. doi:10.2173/bna.244. Retrieved 28 May 2010.  (Subscription required.)
  4. ^ "Greater Roadrunner". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 
  5. ^ "Greater Roadrunner". 2011. 
  6. ^ [1] (2011).[dead link]
  7. ^ Howell, Steve N. G.; Webb, Sophie (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. p. 350. ISBN 0-19-854012-4. 
  8. ^ a b Lockwood, Mark W. (2007). Basic Texas Birds: A Field Guide. University of Texas Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-292-71349-9. 
  9. ^ Cornett, James W. (2001). The Roadrunner. Palm Springs, California: Nature Trails Press. ISBN 0-937794-31-7. 
  10. ^ Wood, Gerald (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9. 
  11. ^ "Amazing Bird Records". Trails.com. Retrieved 2 June 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Young, William (2014). The Fascination of Birds: From the Albatross to the Yellowthroat. Courier Dover. p. 251. 

External links[edit]