Geococcyx Californianus – Greater Roadrunner

Geococcyx Californianus - Greater Roadrunner found in the Southwestern USA

The bigger roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus is an Aridoamerican cuckoo found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Scientific name: “Californian earth-cuckoo” Along with the smaller roadrunner, it is one of two Geococcyx species. The chaparral cock, ground cuckoo, and snake slayer are all members of this family Cuculidae.

Quick Overview: Geococcyx Californianus – Greater Roadrunner
Body size: Around 20-24 in (51-61 cm) and weight of 347 g (13.2 oz)
Main colors: Brown-black, White, Yellow, Blue
Range: South Western United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Greater Roadrunner Description

The head, neck, back, and wings of the larger roadrunner are dark brown-black with white streaks, while the breast is white. Yellow eyes with a blue and crimson postocular stripe. The black-feathered crest may be raised or lowered as desired. The body is svelte, with a long tail that is capable of being carried upward. Legs and beaks are blue Zygodactylous feet that have two front and two backward toes. The sexes appear to be identical. Greater roadrunners that have not yet matured are golden in color and lack postocular stripes.

Geococcyx Californianus - Greater Roadrunner found in the Southwestern USA
Geococcyx Californianus – Greater Roadrunner. Photo by: Renee Grayson


These birds have a length of 20-24 in (51-61 cm) and a weight of 347 g (13.2 oz). Their wings could range 32 in (81 cm).


Greater Roadrunner consumes a diverse range of foods, which enables it to thrive in the harsh environments of the southwest. Porcupines and mice are two of their preferred prey species. They have been observed to swallow rattlesnakes on rare occasions. Greater roadrunners have been seen to feed on quail, adult sparrows, hummingbirds, and the golden-cheeked warbler.


A dry desert ecosystem with scattered plants providing shelter and open grassy areas providing foraging opportunities. Breeding takes place in chaparral or coastal sage scrub. Meadows and woodland borders are common habitats for them.


The greater roadrunner is a non-migratory species that couples all year. They have a top speed of seventeen miles per hour. They like to trot or walk and will only fly if necessary. Even so, they have a limited range of flights. The long tail balances direct and brakes the vehicle. Their inquisitive nature is widely recognized.

Geococcyx Californianus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Cuculiformes
  • Family: Cuculidae
  • Genus: Geococcyx
  • Species: Geococcyx californianus

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the Greater Roadrunner in the USA

Greater roadrunners are predominantly found in the southwestern United States, but their distribution extends into other parts of the country. They are found in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Their distribution extends into southern Mexico.

Geococcyx Californianus – Greater Roadrunner

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