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Greater Roadrunner

The Greater Roadrunner is the most famous bird in the Sonoran Desert and not only due to the cartoon. It is easily recognizable as a large, black-and-white, mottled ground bird with a distinctive head crest. It has strong feet, a long, white-tipped tail and an large bill. It ranges in length from 20 to 24 inches from the tip of its tail to the end of its beak. It is a member of the Cuckoo Family, characterized by feet with 2 forward toes and 2 behind.

Natural History

The Roadrunner can be mainly be found in the southern portions of California, Arizona, New Mexico (where it is the state bird) and Texas. It inhabits open, flat or rolling desert terrain with scattered cover of dry brush or chaparral. Their diet consists mainly of animals like insects, snails, lizards, scorpions, spiders and also young birds or small mammals. Roadrunners are famous for their ability to catch rattlesnakes. They pick the snakes up by their tails and kill them by slamming the head to the ground. In winter Roadrunners eat more plant material, because animal prey can be hard to find at that time of year.

Roadrunners prefer walking or running  to flying and attain speeds of up to 17 mph on foot.

Greater Roadrunners reach sexual maturity at the age of 2-3 years. They build a shallow nest in a low tree, bush or cactus, or rarely on the ground. The nest is often located in a place where it will be in the shade during the hottest part of the day. The female lays 2-12 white eggs, which are incubated for 18-20 days. The eggs are laid in a period of a few days and so not all young hatch at the same time. The youngest and smallest ones generally do not survive; sometimes they are even eaten by the parents. After 18 days they leave the nest, staying with their parents for another 2 weeks before they set off on their own. Greater Roadrunners may live up to 7 or 8 years.

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