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Texas Roadrunner

Dennis Stewart

Keller, United States

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  • Artist
  • Comments 30

Artist's Description

A rare shot of the roadrunner in the snow taken here in North Texas after a long week of wintry weather.

Taken with a Nikon D300 w/Sigma VR150-500 mm lens F/5.6


The roadrunner is about 56 centimetres (22 in) long and weighs about 300 grams (10.5 oz), and is the largest North American cuckoo. The adult has a bushy crest and long thick dark bill. It has a long dark tail, a dark head and back, and is blue on the front of the neck and on the belly. Roadrunners have four toes on each zygodactyl foot; two face forward, and two face backward.

The name roadrunner comes from the bird’s habit of racing down roads in front of moving vehicles and then darting to safety in the brush.


The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It can be seen in the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, and rarely in Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the Mexican states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Aguas Calientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Querétaro, México, Puebla, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and San Luis Potosí.

Greater Roadrunners measure 61 cm (2 feet) in length, about half of which is tail. They have long, sturdy legs and a slender, pointed bill. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and white spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye;the blue is replaced by white in adult males (except the blue adjacent to the eye), and the orange (to the rear) is often hidden by feathers.

This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or birds. It mainly feeds on insects, with the addition of small reptiles (including rattlesnakes up to 60 cm long), rodents and other small mammals, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes, small birds (particularly from feeders and birdhouses) and eggs, and carrion. It kills larger prey with a blow from the beak—hitting the base of the neck of small mammals—or by holding it in the beak and beating it against a rock. Two roadrunners sometimes attack a relatively big snake cooperatively. Fruit and seeds typically constitute about 10% of the diet.

Although capable of flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).

Some Pueblo Indian tribes, such as the Hopi, believed that the roadrunner provided protection against evil spirits. In Mexico, some said it brought babies, as the White Stork was said to in Europe. Some Anglo frontier people believed roadrunners led lost people to trails. It is the state bird of New Mexico.

The greater roadrunner is the basis of the character of the Road Runner in the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated cartoons, but ornithologists are not known to have found any evidence in real life that it is a favored prey of the coyote.

Artwork Comments

  • Tracey  Dryka
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