|Conservation status||Periodically expands range to north and east, is killed back by severe winters. May be in long-term decline in California.|
|Family||Cuckoos, Roadrunners, Anis|
|Habitat||Deserts, open country with scattered brush. Most common in Sonoran desert and in other kinds of brushy country, including chaparral and Texas brushlands, in areas with a mix of open ground and dense low cover. At limits of range, found in dry grassland, forest edges, and limestone hills with scattered junipers.|
Usually hunts by walking rapidly, looking for prey, then making very rapid dash forward to catch prey in its bill. May leap straight up from ground to catch insects or birds flying over (has been seen catching hummingbirds this way).
3-5, sometimes 2-6. White to pale yellowish. Incubation is by both parents (male does more), about 20 days. Young: Fed by both parents; leave the nest after about 18-21 days. May begin catching own food soon after leaving nest, but still fed by parents up to another 30-40 days.
Fed by both parents; leave the nest after about 18-21 days. May begin catching own food soon after leaving nest, but still fed by parents up to another 30-40 days.
Includes insects, reptiles, rodents, birds. Feeds on many large insects, plus other arthropods including scorpions, tarantulas, and centipedes. Also catches many lizards, snakes, mice, young ground squirrels, small birds (including baby quail and adult sparrows), sometimes snails. Eats some fruits (especially cactus fruit) and seeds.
May mate for life, pairs defending territory all year. Courtship includes chases on foot, with frequent pauses to rest. One bird (either sex) approaches the other with stick or blade of grass, and drops it on the ground or gives it to other bird. In other displays, male runs away from female with tail and wings raised over back, gradually lowers wings; male wags tail from side to side while slowly bowing. Nest site is in dense bush, low tree, or cactus, usually 2-12' above ground, rarely on ground. Nest is platform of sticks, lined with grass, leaves, feathers, sometimes with snakeskin or pieces of cow manure.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Permanent resident, but some (young birds?) may wander considerable distances.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsClucks, crows, dove-like coos, dog-like whines, and hoarse guttural notes.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Greater Roadrunner
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Greater Roadrunner
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.