Greater Roadrunners (Geococcyx californianus)

The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is a large, long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, Cuculidae. This roadrunner is also known as the Chaparral Cock.

It is one of the two roadrunner species in the genus Geococcyx, and the other Lesser Roadrunner.

Greater Roadrunner


The adult is about 56 cm long with a bushy crest and long thick dark bill. It has a long dark tail, a dark head and back, and is pale on the front of the neck and on the belly.

Roadrunners have four toes; two face forward, and two face backward.


The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

It can be seen in the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and rarely in Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana.

Greater Roadrunners


The Greater Roadrunners 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.

This bird walks rapidly about, running down prey or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or birds. It mainly feeds on insects, small reptiles, rodents, tarantulas, scorpions, and small birds.

Although capable of flight, it spends most of its time on the ground and can run at speeds of 24 km/h (15 miles per hour) or more.

Popular culture

  • The Greater Roadrunner is the state bird of New Mexico, USA.
  • The Greater Roadrunner is the mascot of California State University, Bakersfield, Metropolitan State College of Denver, State Fair Community College (Sedalia, Missouri), Midland College (Midland, Texas), the College of DuPage (DuPage County, Illinois) and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
  • The Greater Road Runner serves loosely as the basis for the character Road Runner in the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon shorts by Chuck Jones.
Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner
Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

We love to hear from our readers. If you have any questions or if you want to get in touch with us, you can find our contact details on our About Us page.

Leave a Comment