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Real Roadrunner Video and Facts for Kids

VirginiaLynne is an educator and mom of 5. Her Science Fair articles are based on her experience helping her children do their projects.

Real Roadrunners: What are they like?

Everyone knows the "Beep Beep" of the cartoon Roadrunner, and the fabled speed of this bird inspired the cable company Roadrunner's name. How fast can roadrunners run? They have been clocked at up to 20 miles an hour, which makes them the fastest running bird.

The Greater Roadrunner is the largest North American Cuckoo. At almost 2 feet long from tip to tail, they are a big bird, even though they weigh less than 2 lbs. They live from 7 to 8 years.

Although they look exotic, they are actually not at all an endangered species. In fact, they can be found in many parts of the Southwestern U.S. in states like California, Arizona, Utah and Texas. Another species of roadrunner, the Lesser Roadrunner, is smaller and lives in Mexico and Central America.

Real Roadrunner

Roadrunner up close.

Roadrunner up close.

What Do Roadrunners Eat?

Roadrunners are opportunistic feeders. That means they aren't too picky. In fact, they will eat anything they can can get their hands on (or beaks in!). Generally, 90% of their food is meat, and 10% is seeds and fruit.

A Lot! Roadrunners eat a lot of things. Their fast feet and sharp beak makes them excellent hunters. They snatch up their prey and hit it against a rock or the ground to kill it. .

Snake Dinner Tonight! Roadrunners love snakes and lizards. Sometimes, two roadrunners work together to kill a larger snake. Believe it or not, a roadrunner can even kill rattlesnakes!

Meat to Eat. Most of the time, their food is smaller animals that they can swallow more easily. They love lizards, small snakes, frogs and small rodents like mice. However, they also like insects like centipedes, millipedes, butterflies, spiders, and beetles. They are so fast, they can kill and eat scorpions, so they are helpful to have around! If they can get them, they will eat the eggs of other birds and sometimes small birds too.

Veggies Too! Even though most of what roadrunner like to eat is meat, they also will snack on fruit and seeds. I've seen roadrunners poking their beaks into the grass or soft dirt looking for things to eat there.

Roadrunners Share: I've often seen roadrunners carrying a lizard in their beak for a long distance to share with a mate or their fledgling babies. When they eat it, they hold it with one foot and take pieces off with their beak. They feed these pieces to the babies or toss them up and swallow themselves.

Young Roadrunner Hunting

Real Roadrunner pictures

Roadrunner hunting.

Roadrunner hunting.

Roadrunner fluffed with black back exposed to sun to warm up.

Roadrunner fluffed with black back exposed to sun to warm up.

Greater roadrunner juvenille.

Greater roadrunner juvenille.

Fun Roadrunner Facts for Kids

Roadrunner Stork? You may have heard the story about the stork bringing babies. That's what parents in Europe would tell their children. In Mexico, parents said that the roadrunner brought mommies a new baby!

Eye Sweat? The roadrunner has salt glands in front of their eyes. These glands take the extra salt from the roadrunner's blood and excrete it out. So you could say the roadrunner sweats salt tears!

Warming Up. Roadrunners have a black patch of skin on their backs which aborbs the heat from the sun. When they want to warm up in the morning, they fluff up their back feathers and show that black patch to the sun. You can see the roadrunner doing that in the video as it is sitting on our fence.

Eye Shadow: Adult female roadrunners have a beautiful patch of orange and blue skin behind each eye which makes it look like they have colored shadow. The males aren't so lucky. Their eyes are white.

4 Toed: Roadrunners have just four toes on each foot. Two toes point forward, and the other two point backward. Those toes have sharp claws for catching prey and they are long so that the roadrunner can balance and run fast.

Tails: The roadrunner has a very long, white-tipped tail, which can move quickly and helps the roadrunner to balance and manuever.

Hairdo: The roadrunner has a crest of feathers that they can move up and down. Their coloring is streaked brown and white with a white moon shape on their wings.

Sounds: The roadrunner makes two types of sounds. The first is 6-8 "coos" like a dove. They also make a clattering noise by clacking their beak together.

How it Kills a Poisonous Snake: Killing a rattlesnake isn't easy and the roadrunner's speed is put to the test. Roadrunners dart in to stab the snake's head. Then they grab the snake in the middles and quickly throw it back and forth on the ground until it stops moving. Tough, but effective!

Friendly: In Mexico, the roadrunner is known as "paisano" which means fellow traveler, because the bird is known to travel with you for miles across the desert.

Roadrunner Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How many kinds of roadrunners are there?
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • more than 3
  2. Why are they called Greater Roadrunners?
    • They are bigger.
    • They have fancy eye patches.
    • They run faster.
    • They are more fun to see.
  3. True or false: Roadrunners can kill rattlesnakes.
    • True
    • False
  4. In Mexico, people said roadrunners:
    • Were dangerous and warned kids to stay away from them.
    • Brought good luck.
    • Brought babies to families.
    • Liked to eat flowers
  5. Roadrunners make what kind of sounds?
    • Hissing and Klacking
    • Tweeting
    • Coo and Klack
    • They don't make sounds
  6. Where do Roadrunners make their nest?
    • High up in a cactus bush.
    • On the ground under a bush or cactus.
    • In trees.
    • In a hole in the ground.
  7. What do Roadrunners NOT eat?
    • scorpions
    • lizards
    • seeds
    • bread
  8. Do Roadrunners mate for life?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Sometimes
  9. What kind of bird is a Roadrunner?
    • Woodpecker
    • Cuckcoo
    • Mockingbird
    • Chicken
  10. How do Roadrunners feel about people?
    • They are scared of them.
    • They are not afraid of them.

Answer Key

  1. 2
  2. They are bigger.
  3. True
  4. Brought babies to families.
  5. Coo and Klack
  6. On the ground under a bush or cactus.
  7. bread
  8. Sometimes
  9. Cuckcoo
  10. They are not afraid of them.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner.  Notice 4 toed feet.

Greater Roadrunner. Notice 4 toed feet.

Roadrunner Nests and Raising Young

Nests on Ground. Roadrunners are not fancy nest builders. They generally just make a platform of sticks low in a bush or cactus. The nest near our house was just in a hedge between two houses and only about 15 feet from a fairly busy street.

Roadrunner Parents. The Roadrunners mate for the whole season, and sometimes for life. They work together to raise the young. Some pairs raise two broods a year.

Roadrunner Babies: After building their nest, the roadrunner lays 3 to 6 eggs which are yellowish white. The chicks hatch in 20 days and are blind at first. The parents feed them and in just 18 days, the babies are ready to fledge.

Roadrunner Mother

Roadrunner mother with lizard.

Roadrunner mother with lizard.

Roadrunner mother feeding babies.

Roadrunner mother feeding babies.

Roadrunner poll

Roadrunners and People

Not Afraid: Roadrunners are not afraid of people. In fact, this exotic bird that we expect to see out in the dessert can live quite happily in a suburban neighborhood. While I sometimes find the roadrunner moves away when I approach, that isn't always the case as you can see from the roadrunner hunting happily in the video right near my gardening husband.

Roadrunner Family Moves into the Neighborhood: Living in Texas for 20 years, I'd seen roadrunners every once in a while as we drove around town. However, two years ago, a roadrunner family moved into our neighborhood in Central Texas. We see them just about every day from May to November. We've gotten a chance to watch them run around our block, seen them hunt and sun themselves after the rain. We've even gotten a chance to watch the parents raise their young and teach them how to hunt.

Roadrunner Raises Babies in Suburbs: Following the mother one day when she was bringing a lizard home to feed her babies, we saw that the nest was underneath a bush that was between two houses. A cat on the driveway nearbly calmly watched the mother roadrunner feeding her two babies! At first, I was surprised but then realized that the roadrunner's beak was about 3 inches long and that cat had probably already decided that a roadrunner mother was nothing she wanted to tangle with.

Mother Roadrunner Teaches Baby to Hunt: Later, we saw the mother taking one of the babies out hunting a few houses down from the nest. The mother was doing a "klack-klack" noise to the baby, trying to get it to move and hide when she saw us. She caught some bugs and tried to move the baby to try to catch some butterflies too.

Young Roadrunner Hunts Alone: About a month after that, one of the grown-up youngsters came into our yard on their own to hunt (see video). Like most juvenile birds, this youngster wash smaller than the parents and not as colorful. The blue and red eye patches hadn't yet appeared. However, the youngster had certainly learned a lot about hunting and went avidly after the migrating monarch butterflies. The butterflies didn't offer a lot in the way of nutrition but may have been easier prey than the lizards and small snakes I usually see dangling from the parent's mouths.

Female Greater Roadrunner

Female Roadrunner with red and blue eye patch

Female Roadrunner with red and blue eye patch

Greater Roadrunner Territory

Map of where Roadrunners live

Map of where Roadrunners live

Lesser Roadrunner picture

Map of where Lesser Roadrunner lives

Lesser Roadrunner Territory

Lesser Roadrunner Territory

Questions & Answers

Question: Does the roadrunner eat many venomous desert species like spiders, scorpions, and rattlesnakes?

Answer: The roadrunner is famous for being able to eat rattlesnakes and sometimes two roadrunners will work together to kill a snake. They are also known for eating all sorts of insects and spiders. They mostly like crickets and grasshoppers, and I've seen them eat a lot of butterflies in my yard. However, they can also eat scorpions, lizards and the Greater Roadrunner in the Sonoran desert has been known to even eat mice, young rabbits, tarantulas, and if it can't find anything else, it will eat prickly pear cactus fruit!

Question: Who are the roadrunner's enemies?

Answer: Perhaps not surprisingly, a coyote is actually one of the chief enemies of roadrunners, and unlike the cartoon, a roadrunner can't always outfox that enemy. Other enemies are domestic cats, raccoons, and skunks. However, their greatest threat is people, who sometimes hunt them or take over their territory. However, we have been happy to see that roadrunners live very easily inside our suburban neighborhood.

Comments

Ijkjkj on April 04, 2019:

They are so coolest in the world to see a beautiful day for them and always will be the same

Nadia on March 27, 2018:

Iove roadrunners there the coolest bird ever

jason on November 21, 2017:

their cool

toon on November 09, 2017:

roadrunners are faster than me!

mike on November 09, 2017:

these animals are cool

Elliott on November 03, 2017:

we like them

caretr on June 01, 2017:

they are almost faster than me

carter hi on May 22, 2017:

hi they are so cool

Davonta Keswon Pate on February 17, 2017:

i love them

g on February 11, 2014:

I learned lots of things.

MAYA on December 03, 2013:

thats cool

R. J. Lefebvre on May 17, 2013:

Virginia,

The first time of learning about roadrunners, other than remembering them in cartoons when I was young. I'll be looking at some of your other hubs later. All seem worthy of the topics you wrote on, thank you.

Ronnie

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