animal of the week road runner

Get Out Your Running Shoes and Catch The Speedy Roadrunner!

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Meep meep! Birds are amazing animals. Some are great swimmers like the penguin. Some birds are amazing flyers like the long-distance migrating Snow Goose. But the current Animal of the Week is one heck of a good runner! That’s right Defenders, this week’s animal is the Roadrunner! The greater roadrunner can grow up to two feet long from beak to tail and can run up to 20 miles per hour. It’s an opportunistic omnivore that lives in the deserts of the Southwest United States on down to Central America. It eats everything from tarantulas, scorpions, and other invertebrates, to small mammals and reptiles. The roadrunner will also feast on available seeds, fruits, and nuts that it can find in the desert.

What Sound Does A Roadrunner Make?

Although the popular Warner Brothers cartoon character that made the Roadrunner and Coyote famous frenemies says “beep beep” or “meep meep,” actual roadrunners make a clacking sound with their beaks. In fact, their call sounds more like a coyote barking than the cartoon bird. They also coo like owls, particularly while looking for mates or males declaring their presence to mark their territory. Other roadrunners can hear these coos up to a quarter of a mile away! Cartoons are fun on Saturday morning, but you can learn a lot more about real animals on our YouTube page!

What Type Of Bird Is A Roadrunner?

The roadrunner belongs to a family of birds known as Cuckoos. There are a great variety of cuckoo birds that live all around the globe. Some are tropical and some live in deserts. Some live in trees, and others live on the ground. Although the roadrunner hunts and spends most of its time on the ground, it will build a nest 3-10 feet off the ground, usually in a well shaded area near water. Roadrunners mate for life, but renew their bond each spring with regular courtship rituals that involve a lot of dancing, communication, and usually the offering of something delicious, like a dead mouse.

Do Roadrunners fly?

Roadrunners have very long and muscular legs that they use to run very fast on the ground. They’re also very agile, and can leap and catch insects, bats, and even small hummingbirds mid-flight for a meal. They’re clumsy when they try to fly though, so they typically rely on their ground speed. While running down a familiar trail, they flash their wings and spook insects into flight for them to eat. Because the desert climate fluctuates between hot and cold, the roadrunner also uses its dark feathers, and its dark skin underneath, to spread out and absorb the sun when it needs to warm up. If it’s too cold, the roadrunner can slow its heartbeat and activity down until it warms up again.

Why Run So Fast?

Their speed also helps them eat one of the deserts most dangerous inhabitants – the rattlesnake! The roadrunner is fast enough to dodge the dangerous venomous strikes from the rattlesnake, and uses its beak to peck at the snake’s head, eventually killing it. Although the roadrunner is very fast and a skilled hunter, it lives in the desert and often eats whatever it can find, including bird eggs and dead animals. They also use their speed to avoid other dangerous desert predators like coyotes and hawks. Although remarkably fast for their size, the roadrunner isn’t the fastest running bird. That honor belongs to the ostrich, which runs up to 45 miles per hour! Click here to learn more about the ostrich and other running animals.

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