Name: Greater Roadrunner
Two feet long
Small beak, long neck, yellow eyes, crest on head. Tail feathers
as long as or longer than whole body.
Made famous in Loony Tunes as Wile E. Coyote's nemesis, the greater roadrunner is a longtime denizen of the deserts, grasslands and woodlands of the American South and Mexico. Greater roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family. This bird is especially known for its fast-paced, land-bound lifestyle. It rarely flies (and poorly at that) but it can run on the ground at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour!
Roadrunners have a varied diet, but mostly eat snakes. They also eat lizards, fruit, seeds, scorpions, mice, spiders, ground-nesting birds, or anything else they can catch. The greater roadrunner is certainly not a picky eater! They hunt for their food by traveling on the ground at a brisk speed, bursting into a quick run upon finding prey.
Roadrunners have a pigmented skin. In the morning, roadrunners will extend their feathers and sit with the sun to their backs. Their black skin will absorb the energy from the sun, thus boosting their body heat without using up extra energy. Roadrunners will often present their mate with a twig as an offering. They are also known for chasing potential mates around. Once bonded, a roadrunner pair may mate for life. They build their nests out of mesquite, cholla or palo verde. A female roadrunner will lay up to six eggs. If there is not enough food to go around, the stronger chicks will eat most of the food and the weaker ones will starve. If these famine conditions continue, the stronger chicks will eat the weaker chicks!
The greater roadrunner is a very common species and currently is not endangered. However, they are no longer common in parts of California due to urban development. There is also a myth that greater roadrunners overhung a species of quail, thus they are often targeted by hunters. Roadrunners will eat anything they can find and are not in direct competition with hunters for quail or any other species.
Though the Loony
Tunes depiction of the roadrunner has become iconic, it delivers a titanic
misconceptions. The Loony Tunes roadrunner is shown to be at least five
feet tall, around the size of an ostrich. Real roadrunners are only
about two feet long. The Loony Tunes roadrunner is also famous for it's
call "Beep-beep!". Roadrunners actually make a sound more
like "cooo-cooo" or "krooo-krooo" as well as a sharp
rattling noise. Furthermore, the Looney Tunes roadrunner is shown as
having a very small body, an incredibly long neck and very long legs
with light and dark blue plumage. Real roadrunners have a much shorter
neck, a far larger body and shorter legs with black, brown and white
feathers. The only attribute that Looney Tunes appears to have gotten
right is that the road-runner has a crest and a long tail, though the
crest looks more like wavy hair, and the tail is also curly and flows
when he runs. Real roadrunners do not have a crest or a tail in this
The wacky but inaccurate Loony Tunes Road Runner
It's perfectly fine to enjoy the creativity and hilarity of cartoons on TV. However, it's important to remember that what you see on TV is not always accurate. Be sure to be on the lookout for misconceptions of animals in the media; each myth generates more false information and confusion in the public!
If you would like to know more about the Greater Roadrunner and help conserve desert species, check out these awesome websites:
All About Birds
Greater Roadrunner Page-detailed information on the Greater Road-runner
Sonoran Desert Protection-dedicated to protecting the Sonoran Desert
and it's wildlife.
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