Geococcyx californianus • Birds
A member of the cuckoo family, roadrunners rarely fly but can run at speeds of up to 20 mph. Their toe arrangement acts like snowshoes to keep this ground-dwelling bird atop the sand as it runs across the desert on strong, long legs. The roadrunner’s feathers are streaked in brown and white. The tail is long with a white edge. The tail is used as a rudder while running and also in displays. They have a long, thick bill, which is used to catch their prey.
Roadrunners inhabit dry, sparsely vegetated areas of the desert scrub and mesquite groves, eating lizards, birds, snakes (including rattlesnakes) and insects, primarily grasshoppers.
Some Pueblo Indian tribes believed that the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies and some frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails.
The roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3 – 6 eggs. The chicks fledge in 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood.