Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Larry Fitzgerald
Photo Copyright Larry Fitzgerald

The greater roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, occurs across the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, from the Pacific coast to the Mississippi River. It is typically found in desert scrub habitats. In Utah, this bird is restricted to the southwestern corner of the state. The greater roadrunner consumes very little plant material, subsisting almost entirely on animal prey, but the type of food consumed varies seasonally. Insects are the main prey base in the early spring. During the breeding season, the diet contains large, high-energy foods, such as lizards, snakes, and small mammals. When feeding young, adults again eat mainly insects, bringing any large vertebrate prey that is captured to the nest. When reptiles and insects are scarce in winter months, birds become an important component of the diet.

Breeding pairs are monogamous, and defend hunting territories against intruding neighbors. Courtship rituals are complex, and often the male presents a lizard or other gift to the female during his displays. The female builds the nest, and the male supplies the nest material. The nest is usually located in a small tree, shrub, or cactus, usually three to ten feet off the ground, and is a shallow bowl of twigs and stems lined with leaves, grass, and snake skins. Three to six eggs are laid and then incubated continuously for nineteen or twenty days until they hatch. During this time, the parents share incubating responsibilities during the day, but only the males incubate at night. Young leave the nest after about eleven days, and are able to feed themselves after about sixteen days.


  • Hughes, J. M. 1996. Greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus). Birds of North America 244: 24 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.