Unlike its well-known cartoon representation, the roadrunner does not go “beep beep,” though it is eaten by coyotes. Mostly a bird of the American southwest, it lives in deserts, grasslands, and woodlands from Missouri to Mexico. It averages about 20 inches in length and 19 inches in wingspan, though it rarely flies, preferring to run at speeds as fast as 18 miles per hour.
Well-adapted to arid habitats, the greater roadrunner has glands near its eyes that it uses to secrete excess salt. It can survive without drinking water, as long as it consumes prey with high water content. The roadrunner’s diet includes insects, birds, lizards, snakes, gophers, mice, and a variety of fruit, all of which it finds on the ground. Occasionally two birds will hunt cooperatively to bring down larger snakes. It is an opportunistic bird, sometimes seen waiting near bird-feeders for prey to arrive.
Though it spends much of its time on the ground, roadrunner nests are usually 3-15 feet above the ground in trees, shrubs, or cactus clumps. Nests are made of sticks lined with a wide assortment of tidbits, including grasses, feathers, snakeskin, and dry manure. The female lays 2 to 6 eggs, which incubate up to 18 days and are tended by both parents. Hatchlings fledge after 17 to 19 days and live around 7 to 8 years.March 07, 2011