Found from California to Louisiana and down throughout much of Mexico, Greater Roadrunners (Cuculiformes: Cuculidae: Geococcyx californianus) are a relatively common sight in the desert southwest. These birds can grow up to two feet (61 cm) in length and while their bulk makes it hard for them to fly, their muscular legs allow them to run at up to 20 mph (32 kph). Their considerable speed gives them the ability to evade most predators and hunt down small prey.
Voracious and opportunistic hunters, roadrunners will eat almost anything they can catch. In times of plenty that includes small mammals, reptiles, birds, and arthropods. When times are tough they’ll raid bird nests for the eggs or chicks, and will sometimes subsist on fruit and seeds. They’re known to prey on scorpions and rattlesnakes, often using cooperative behavior. One bird will distract the prey animal with vigorous dances while the other sneaks up from behind to grab it and bash it to death. These birds swallow their prey whole, so they will literally take larger prey and “beat it to a pulp” against rocks to make it easier to swallow.
As their name suggests, roadrunners are often found along southwestern roadways. Lizards and snakes often bask on the warm asphalt surfaces to get their blood flowing, and roadrunners have found the roads to be ideal hunting grounds.