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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)

Greater Roadrunner

Geococcyx californianus (Lesson, 1829)

Range:  Southwest/South-Central United States, Mexico
Habitat:  Desert, Scrub, Chaparral
Diet:  Reptiles, Invertebrates, Rodents, Birds, Fruit
Social Grouping: Pairs
Reproduction: Males court females by presenting them with food items, nest 1-2 times year (depending on rainfall), 2-8 eggs are laid in the nest made by both parents in a bush or cactus; eggs hatch after a 20 day incubation period; chicks fledge at 18 days, run at 3 weeks, and are independent at 20-30 days; both sexes are sexually mature at 2-3 years old
Lifespan: 8 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern
  • Adult length 50-62 centimeters, height 25-30 centimeters, wingspan 43-61 centimeters, weight 227-341 grams
  • Sexes look alike: dark brown neck, back, and wings heavily streaked with white; white breast, crest of black feathers which can be raised or lowered, feet are zygodactylus 
  • Occasionally will be brood parasites, laying eggs in the nests of ravens and mockingbirds
  • Non-migratory, but will sometimes succumb to the cold during very cold weathers, often sunbathe when cold
  • Prefer walking or running to flying, and only remain airborne for a few seconds at a time; can achieve running speed of 40 kilometers per hour
  • In southern Mexico, they are replaced by their close cousin the lesser roadrunner, G. velox
  • Their common name refers to their habit of running down roads in front of moving vehicles, darting to safety
  • Considered a protector against evil spirits by some Pueblo nations; in Mexico, they were said to bring babies, much like storks were believed to do in Europe.  They are the state bird of New Mexico, but are best known from the Looney Tune cartoons
  • Increased construction of roads has lead to habitat fragmentation and deaths from roadkills; they are also threatened by poisoning from pesticides, occasionally shot by hunters and gamekeepers due to their predation of quail

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