The Greater Roadrunner.

The Greater Roadrunner Male At Top - Female At Bottom.


The Greater Roadrunner

I grew up in a house not even five miles from where I now sit, and I've lived the greatest majority of my life in this very area of what is considered Kaufman, Texas. Facts are that I'm well outside of town, but that doesn't change the mailing address. When the family moved here, a bit further outside of town, I first noticed our neighbor, actually, it's a squatter, and it lives along our driveway somewhere, and is often in our large front yard; a Greater Roadrunner.

I'm positive that I'd never seen one of these birds before, despite growing up only a few miles away. I'd never been much of a bird watcher, but now we've bird houses and bird feeders all over the place, but those are for the "pretty" birds, and I'm told that nearly all other species of bird despise the Greater Roadrunner. I like him or her just fine though, and I think that you should too.

Now, perhaps you don't much care for me calling this bird the "Greater" Roadrunner, but I assure you that that is it's proper name. It's true that I'd hate to be called the "Lesser" Roadrunner, but that is the proper name of The Greater Roadrunner's cousin. I certainly can't agree with calling my front yard friend a "Californian Earth-cuckoo," but that is another name for it, despite the fact that I live hell and gone from California, and in East Texas.

Distribution of The Greater Roadrunner


Snake Killer.

This bird is quite a killer, and is sometimes called "The Snake Killer," and if I've not just ignited an interest in you in having your own front yard Greater Roadrunner, then you're probably just weird. I think that the famous cartoons featuring everyone's favorite long suffering coyote, which are depicted as taking place in a more desert like climate, misleads folks into thinking that this bird wouldn't be found here among the Oak and Mesquite groves, the Pecans, and even into the Pines. The Greater Roadrunner is found from most of California, and all the way East up into Arkansas. Of course we citizens of the United States don't get to hoard our Greater Roadrunners. The bird is found throughout most of Mexico as well.

We've a fairly long driveway, and often when coming or going, the Greater Roadrunner that lives in the front yard will love to show us that he or she is there, you can picture the twitching of the long tail feathers, and practically hear it go "beep beep," (or is it "meep meep?") as it crosses the drive in front of us. With the ability to run as fast as 26 miles per hour, this bird is in no danger from us, and nobody had best come down our drive so fast as to endanger it either. There are neighbors, but the Greater Roadrunner seems to love the Shaw family much more than any of them, and well it should. I've found estimates that place the running speed of the Greater Roadrunner at a much slower 17 miles per hour. I guess there is some debate here. These birds do not migrate, and it shouldn't be thought that they can not fly. They can fly, but they very much prefer not to, and they can't fly a very long ways.

Besides the fact that the Greater Roadrunner feeds on snakes, it's also fond of eating stinging scorpions. Now, I don't know about you, or where you live - but if you've ever been stung by a scorpion, then I can assure you that you'll bless the site of this, the largest bird of the cuckoo family; and you too will want one living in your front yard. I can't give any advice as to how you can get one to come live in your yard, it's just one of the small blessings bestowed upon such as I. I'll take what I can get.

Back to the snake killing - you can see from the pictures the tremendously sharp beak that the Greater Roadrunner has, and you can see how snakes, other small lizards, and even small mammals could easily fall prey to such a weapon. It's said that two Greater Roadrunners will work together in order to kill a large snake. This is teamwork, and two beaks are better than one.

Though the Greater Roadrunner is a predatory bird, and even kills other birds for food - The Greater Roadrunner is not without predators of it's own. Dogs, skunks, coyotes, and raccoons will sometimes catch and kill these birds for food. The Greater Roadrunner is also sometimes the prey of the Winter's chill. After the harsh Texas Winter of 2010/2011, I'm delighted to see that it hadn't got cold enough to kill our front yard squatters.

Here You can Clearly See Why Other Birds Hate The Greater Roadrunner.

The Largest Cuckoo

The Cuckoo Family of birds are rather controversial. I'm not nearly enough of a biologist to get into all of that controversy, and there are many different levels and kinds of controversy involving Cuckoo family birds. In folklore, the Cuckoo's are renowned for being nest parasites, meaning that they'll lay their eggs in other bird's nests, and have someone else raise their offspring. You can see how this term bled over into humanity, and that someone being named a "Cuckold" is not a pleasant thing at all. The Greater Roadrunner, however is NOT a brood or nest parasite, and raises it's own young.

The courtship of The Greater Roadrunner is rather romantic, as the male will try to seduce the female with bits of dead lizard or snake dangling from his beak. If the female accepts the offered meal, then she's consented to sex. Dating done right. There is another avenue, however, and it involves the male shaking HIS tale feathers in HER face whilst making all sorts of crooning noises. I suppose the Greater Roadrunner must have been an Elvis Presley fan. Often times, the Greater Roadrunner pairs will mate for life.

When it comes to nest building, both members of the pair are involved. The male will collect the nest materials, and the female will arrange them just where she thinks that they ought to be. Sound familiar? Also, both parents take on the burden of feeding the young, and they will often continue feeding their young after the chicks have left home. This is starting to sound all too close to home. Perhaps I'm actually a Greater Roadrunner. There is now no question as to why I've got such a front yard squatter. The greater roadrunners obviously belong here.

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Comments 37 comments

justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

??????? Yeah but how does it taste? I bet not very good :-P 5 years ago

I love birds Todd! Thanks.

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

I dunno? It's big enough to eat. . . .sort of. If things get bad enough, I'll let you know!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Crin, I knew I'd find your animal of choice sooner or later!

DoItForHer 5 years ago

In the first video it sounds like it has a grasshopper stuck in its throat. lol

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

He shouldn't have tried to swallow it whole!

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

You always display a great charm when you are writing about animals. You are obviously a great nature lover.

Thanks for that truly supberb and interesting hub. I always thought that roadrunners were just cartoon characters, but now that I know for certain that they are real, I want one to come live in my drive as well.

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thank you, Christopher! It had never occurred to me that they might be considered a made up character! Of course I'd never actually seen one the first 20 years of my life, but now I see them all of the time.

I'm terrified of the Adders. I've been intending to look up English Adders, so as to better avoid them whenever I do get to visit across the pond.

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Very cool hub!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thank you Susan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 5 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

They are adorable and Fast too...The only time I ever saw one was in Mexico on a fishing trip..and was just fasinated by them. Never knew they were snake killers though they seem so small...Thanks for sharing and lucky you to be able to film them...

Of course here I have the Great Bald Eagle to film,wishing I could have caught it on film when my grandson (age 4) chased one that was after my chickens...what a sight that was the bird was bigger them my grandson...:O)

always good stories...Have a great day...:O) Hugs G-Ma

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks very much, G-Ma Johnson!!! I can't take credit for the film though, I grab those off of youtube. I will someday make my own vids though. I just don't have the equipment as of yet.

We've hawks in the area; but I doubt that I've ever seen an eagle except for at a zoo. I'd surely love to see that!

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Wesman Todd Shaw, great hub on the roadrunner, found out some thing i did not know about the roadrunner, thanks !

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey thank you, kashmir56!!!! I found out some things I didn't know either while writing it!

Fallen Valkyrie 5 years ago

Runners Rock! Excellent hub!! (Gosh, I feel like I've said that before a few times lol)

Runners are fascinating to interact with. We had to keep them off our property when we raised chickens as they will raid nesting boxes and make off with egg or young.

They do take to one area though and it's fun to build an interactive and somewhat trustful relationship with them, isn't it?! A local restaurant keeps a "Reserved" table for their Runner and always keep the peanut bucket and water filled for him. We made the mistake of taking his table one night and it was hilarious as he raised hell with us, circled us and damn near climbed in our laps for scraps of dinner. When we didn't move he hopped to the shrub and killed a small and had a feast beside the table as if to say, "Ha! I showed you!"

In rare cases Runners can interact with other birds peacefully. It's amazing what small ponds and readily available water do to overcome some of the normal bird fights around here. I have a gorgeous pic of our Runner sitting at the pond drinking away alongside sparrows (normally the most spastic and aggressive to threats), robins, Inca and mourning dove and even a cardinal.

If you live in an area where they are natural and want to tempt them to 'adopt' your house or property, plates of hotdogs or other meats and a little bit of a steady water supply go a long ways towards making them daily visitors.

flying_fish profile image

flying_fish 5 years ago from GTA

Fantastic! I couldn't hope for a roadrunner in my building's parking lot this far north, of course - then again, I've NO issues with snakes or scorpions either... I do walk past a dedicated swarm of local sparrows on these downtown streets, and delight in witnessing their communal stick-to-it-iveness...

Beautifully written and just delightful! Thanks Wesman!

tom hellert profile image

tom hellert 5 years ago from home


So- I never thought about it this way-I did hear that the runners were everywhere out west, with the increase of the roadrunners you would think COYOTE POPULATION WOU;D INCREASE AS WELL? More food and all... oh but wait the coyotes can never catch them- no matter how unusual their schemes are. c'mon rocket proppelled rollerskates.

MEEP-MEEP Puff of smoke I am gone PWANG::::======>>>>>*PUFF OF SMOKE* MEEPMEEP...



living there would be neatliving out west with-


Fallen Valkyrie 5 years ago

* Grrr - I meant to type the Runner at our table 'killed a small bird' not just killed 'a small' lol

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Fallen Valkyrie, I'd love to have a restaurant like that around here! I bet that's cool! If I ever finally make it your way I wanna eat there!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Flying Fish! I'll have to check to see where you are at, they don't go very far North. I'm definitely a Southern Boy.

Thanks for the terrific compliment!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Tom Hellert, if the coyote population gets any bigger here where I'm at, there will be no room for the people!

I guess they coyotes can't catch the one in my front yard, and sometimes it does sound like the coyotes are in my front yard!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Fallen V, I'd like to say that I knew what you meant. . .but I didn't! hahahahah!

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A great hub and I now look forward to reading much more of your work.

I am a sucker for anything to do with animals/wildilfe/nature and this one was a treat.

Take care


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thank you very much, Eiddwen! I'll certainly be doing a lot more wildlife hubs. I never get tired of the "neighbors" that I have!

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

I've only ever seen the cartoon roadrunner, not a real life one... Looks kind of cute and sounds like it would make a nice neighbor :) I totally didn't know they ate snakes!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Oh you are deprived!!!!!!!!!!

They do make good neighbors, they don't play their music loud, they don't rev up their engines, and they never ask to borrow anything!

drpastorcarlotta profile image

drpastorcarlotta 5 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

Very informational, my new friend. LIKE IT! Voted-UP!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey thanks, drpastorcarlotta!

Tracy Savage profile image

Tracy Savage 5 years ago

Reading your article reminds me that I have not seen one for some time around here- possibly back to before all the wildfires in Southern California. You are right- they were commonly seen with a snake hanging out of their raptor beaks just looking around with that crazy startle of feathers poking up on their heads. I think this will require a jaunt out to Joshua Tree to see if I can happen across one or two for a photo op! We used to have them on our roads all the time when I lived up above Pala Indian Rez. Time for a roadtrip!

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Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey, just try to avoid any Grand Theft Parsons type behaviors, that's unbecoming of. . .well, nevermind; I'd prolly think that was cool, or something. . . .

Now I think I'll listen to some Gram Parsons, and wish I regularly kept marijuana around. . . .

nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

This is very cool. A bird that kills snakes and scorpions makes a good yard pet.

The only things I know about roadrunners I learnt from cartoons. As you wrote: meep meep!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey nicomp, I think someone even told me that they didn't realize that Roadrunners were real birds, and not just cartoon birds. . .LOL!

Yeah, they keep the pests away; but other birds routinely shun the roadrunner. Roadrunner's don't get to socialize much down a the bird country club - probably all the other birds know that Roadrunners will kill and eat sparrows, and probably the young of most other birds too - it it's hungry.

Roadrunners do raise their own chicks, but the Cuckoo family of bird is mostly known for Cuckoos simply laying eggs in someone else's nest!

I guess being friendly and responsible aren't high on the roadrunner's list of valued traits; I don't care, they eat stinging scorpions!

Amethystraven profile image

Amethystraven 4 years ago from California

Cool hub! I volunteer at a Wolf Sanctuary, and we have our resident Greater Road Runners too. All of them are named Chop Chop. I like to feed them bits of meat and in return, they let me get great pictures of them. I look forward to the day they take meat from my hands :-)

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Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Amethyst - that's awesome!!! I'd love to have that job!!!

You might be able to do that with the meat, you know - I hope you do! :)

Amethystraven profile image

Amethystraven 4 years ago from California

I'm getting closer and closer everyday to getting Chop Chop to eat from my hand. When I do I'll let you know :-)

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Amythyst - you should use those pictures and make a hubpage about it!

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 4 months ago from Arkansas USA

Fun read! We live in the purple section (on your map above) of Arkansas and often see roadrunners in the neighborhood. In fact, just a few days ago my eye caught movement outside my office window and, lo and behold, there was a roadrunner strolling past the porch. Very glad to know we're being protected from scorpions and snakes.

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