Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus)
The Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is not purple and does not cry “Beep Beep” when ready to speed away. It does, however, run at great speeds and is extremely agile. At fifteen to seventeen miles per hour, it can give most animals a run for their money. The Greater Roadrunner is 22 inches in length, and is part of the cuckoo family. The Roadrunner is predominantly dark brown, with white spots and white belly. Their eyes are yellow and there is bare skin around the eye, with post-ocular streaks. A dark crest of plumage on the head can be raised and lowered. The Roadrunner has blue legs and beak, and the feet are zygodactylous. Zygodactylous means that the feet have two toes pointing forward and two backward. The males and females are similar in coloring and appearance.
Greater Roadrunners are generally found in New Mexico, California, Utah and most regions in the southern United States. The Roadrunners prefer desert areas that have both scattered brush areas and open land. Open grasslands allow the Roadrunner to reach top speed that enables them to catch fast moving lizards, rodents, insects and snakes. They do also feed on specific seeds and fruits at times. This bird might look comical and harmless, but they are fierce predators. Running toward their prey and catching flying insects and small birds out the air, are both hunting techniques that are used by the Greater Roadrunner. It uses its tail as a rudder to maneuver and change direction when running.
Not every year is a fierce fight for a mate during breeding season, as Greater Roadrunners mate for life. Males that have not found a suitable partner will either chase the female, entice them with food or bow in front of the female to catch her attention. Nesting is determined by the rainfall a region receives, meaning that in a region where only one rainfall period is experienced, there will be only one nesting period, and nesting will take place in both August and September in a region that has two rainfall periods. Rainfall ensures that there will be enough resources for both the parents and the chicks. The male Greater Roadrunners will collect building material for the nests and the female is responsible for the construction. Nests are built off the ground, as Roadrunners are capable of flight, although rarely used. The female can lay between two to eight eggs, and both parents assist in the 20 day incubation period. The chicks are able to fledge the nest after only 18 to 21 days, but are still fed by their parents for up to 40 days.
Greater Roadrunners are also very territorial and do not migrate. They can live between 7 to 8 years of age, and sexual maturity is only reached between the ages of two to three years. They are very inquisitive birds, and have very unusual skills to cope with the extremely warm conditions in which they live. They are able to enter into hypothermia in the evenings, which assists them to conserve energy. During the midday heat, they will reduce their activity, and they are also able to conserve water.