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Greater Roadrunner - The Exterminator

Article and photos by Kathryn Mann

I have seen the Greater Roadrunner moving swiftly across roads and open spaces in almost every part of Oklahoma from the densely forested Ouachita Mountains in southeastern part of the state to the desert plains of the panhandle. While Greater Roadrunners are fast runners often moving at 17 mph (about twice as fast as the best human Olympic marathoner), they are no match for another bird, the Ostrich, which can run long distances at 40 mph.

Greater Roadrunner close-up
Male Greater Roadrunner looking for his next meal

Greater Roadrunners can fly but rarely do.

The Greater Roadrunner is just under two feet long from head to tail. Their body is speckled brown with black feathers on its back and wings. They have yellow eyes, long legs, and a long tail. They also have a distinctive a crest. Males have a red and blue patch on the side of their head.

Greater Roadrunner up-close
Female Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunners eat many of the most poisonous creatures in Oklahoma including rattlesnakes and scorpions.

The Greater Roadrunner can go without drinking water if their diet has a high enough moisture content.

Greater Roadrunner running
Greater Roadrunners prefer living in open areas like this where their coloring offers them camouflage

Even though the Greater Roadrunner looks unique among birds it is part of the cuckoo family.

The Roadrunner is a monogamous bird. Males bring gifts of lizards or snakes to females during courtship.

Greater Roadrunners usually live about eight years.



Alania      10:10 AM Wed 2/1/2017

I began seeing a roadrunner in the fall in the cemetery by my house in the Paseo area of OKC. After it got cold I lost track of it. Today I saw it a few blocks over. I had really been missing my friend.

Ann      5:02 PM Sat 1/28/2017

We live West of Tecumseh,Ok and have several bird feeders all winter. The roadrunners are somewhere around our house all summer long but during the winter when we set out more feeders of black sunflower seeds and suet for the woodpeckers and other birds the roadrunners help themselves to the feed. I forgot to mention they seem to particularly like mealworms. I can't tell if it's the same roadrunner each time but we have seeds and mealworms in a birdbath and the roadrunner will sit in the birdbath. Then one day my husband saw it fly up and snatch a Downey woodpecker and eat it. I know nature will happen but I'm afraid we are sitting the other birds up as an easy prey by the roadrunners. I love watching the roadrunners but I didn't mean to have a sit in cafe with their choice of birds to eat. I'm at odds of what to do. I do have a picture of it sitting in the birdbath waiting for its next meal but it isn't a very good one and I am not good with technology so I'm not sure how to put it on here


Jo      6:34 AM Wed 1/11/2017

A road runner has been our nearly constant companion all summer and fall. He visits us when we're working in the shop and has rested and thoroughly checked out our enclosed trailer a couple of times. I go for walks in the pasture and he follows me on the trail. I have pics of him sitting on the porch in our lawn chairs, perched on top of my truck, sunning in the back yard near the cellar and "helping" me in the garden. It's been bitter cold here for a couple of weeks and I hadn't seen him but he made an appearance on the porch today to let us know he made it just fine. It makes my day when he comes around.

SCHardy      3:54 AM Wed 12/28/2016

My comment relates to your topic, the Greater Roadrunner. Today and yesterday one has occupied itself with eating and sunning and taking dust baths and generally being cool at Boyd and University in Norman, Oklahoma. No mate has been seen, but we hope it knows where its mate is. Yesterday, a black yellow-eyed feral cat, saw it and charged to take it out, but my friend Steve jumped between them as the roadrunner flew across the street onto campus. They have a No Eating Roadrunners over Christmas moratorium in effect, so it is now safe. Reported the incident to the non-game division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conversation, but was only able to leave them a message. After the phone call I walked outside and there it was, so I followed it around for the next hour, before it disappeared. Will look for it again tomorrow. I'm hoping to find some frogs and snakes to feed it, but the university isn't very supportive of wild life. This is only the second one I have seen, the first in the 1970s on Alemeda toward the lake, where it zipped across the road and today's, which I have been studying. The late Professor George Miksch Sutton [1898-1982, 84] wrote his first article on the Greater Roadrunner in 1915.

Sheryl      11:00 PM Mon 11/14/2016

I grew up in eastern Oklahoma, where these are a common sight. However, I now live in midtown OKC, and one day this spring I was sitting on my patio when I heard a clattering sound on the awning above. To my surprise, a roadrunner jumped off the awning onto my lawn, ran toward the back to a detached garage, and "flew" onto the roof.
He ran across the roof and I lost him. So surprised to see this guy in an urban area!

Jake      2:09 AM Sat 8/27/2016

I live just outside of Stillwater, OK and saw one running across a field off my front porch! I didn't even know they lived in Oklahoma, the only times I have seen them before were in New Mexico. Really cool birds, if you blink you could miss em.

Danny      6:32 PM Thu 8/18/2016

I'm employed at creek county landfill,we see a roadrunner almost daily. Which is west of Jenks Oklahoma.

Chuck Lowery      8:53 PM Sun 7/24/2016

7/24/16 3:30 pm
I just had one visit my front porch. First I heard something crash against the side of my mobile home, then I looked out and saw him jump up on the rail around my porch. I ran to get my camera, but wasn't fast enough. He ran across the back yard, flew on top of house next door, and then flew and perched on the power line.
This is the first time I've seen one here. I live on Lake Keystone, just across from Pier 51 marina. Interesting looking critter.

Janna Ramsey      4:24 PM Sat 5/23/2015

We live in Deer Creek (north edmond area) and have no less than 4 of these, every morning, hanging around our front yard. They're fun to watch. I have pictures of them coming right up to the front windows. I had no idea they were such great exterminators!

Glenda      5:28 PM Wed 5/13/2015

We live in rural Seminole & have a male roadrunner that pecks on our full glass storm door with his catch of the day in his beak- a snake or lizard.

1birdlover      7:27 PM Sat 5/9/2015

We have a full glass storm door and periodically a male road runner will come to our door with a small lizard in it's mouth. We've wondered about it. It stays on our deck for a bit, doesn't seem to be afraid of us, then just leaves. We live in a country setting South of Clinton.

Brian      2:16 PM Tue 2/17/2015

I've had one hanging around my house in Sapulpa for the last few days. Saw him in the back yard hopping around 2/12, saw him bouncing around the back yard again 2/13, and this morning he was sitting in the corner of my kitchen window trying to hide from the snow.

Perry      1:48 PM Thu 1/15/2015

I see them everyday at my place year around. I live in between Prague and Meeker

Jayne      2:21 PM Thu 12/25/2014

We see them often, running across moccasin trail, south of prague.

NIkki      2:28 PM Mon 11/3/2014

I have had a pair of roadrunners here all spring and summer in rural Oklahoma not far from Prague. I see them in the field or my yard almost everyday, the male most often, the female with him once in a while. The come quite close to the house. I think they must have or had a nest in the pasture somewhere.

scott      3:38 PM Sun 7/6/2014

I saw one in my oklahoma city neighborhood today...it was pretty cool!

Brian      3:07 PM Thu 6/26/2014

I saw on today in Bethel Acers, OKlahoma

John Daniel      4:09 PM Mon 4/7/2014

In SW OK Patty was able to call a Roadrunner with-in 50 feet before he realized that she was not another male.

Carla      11:48 AM Fri 1/31/2014

I am very excited to say that my first trip through the "back roads" of Oklahoma near Durant I saw a female roadrunner. What an awesome treat.

Vinnie      1:12 PM Sat 7/6/2013

Is anyone seeing these, and in what parts of Oklahoma.

Nader Mousa      10:36 PM Tue 8/21/2012

Too nice pic. thank u all

Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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