Written by: D. Gaines
Reviewed by: L. Mewaldt
Edited by: R. Duke
DISTRIBUTION, ABUNDANCE, AND SEASONALITY
A yearlong resident in arid, brushy habitats
below about 900 m (3000 ft) in coast ranges,
foothills and valleys exclusive of cultivated and inhabited floor of
Central Valley, from eastern
Mendocino, Tehama and Shasta cos. south, reaching seacoast in central
California; below about 1500 m (5000 ft) in deserts and desert ranges
from Benton, Mono Co.
and Deep Springs Valley, Inyo Co. south. Fairly common in all
desert habitats, and
uncommon in a variety of other habitats, including coastal scrub, chamise-redshank
mixed chaparral, and valley foothill hardwood and montane hardwood-conifer
scarce and local in northern California, uncommon in coastal southern
California, and fairly
common in deserts, especially to south (Grinnell and Miller 1944, Garrett
and Dunn 1981).
SPECIFIC HABITAT REQUIREMENTS
Feeding: Hunts lizards, snakes, grasshoppers,
other large invertebrates, mice, and
sometimes birds, by chasing and capturing them on the ground.
Occasionally eats eggs and
nestlings of birds, and rarely seeds and fruits (Bent 1940).
Cover: Requires thickets, large bushes,
or small trees for shade, refuge, and roosting.
Reproduction: Compact, open-cup nest
of sticks about 0.3 m (1 ft) across, usually built in
low tree, shrub thicket, or clump of cactus, at height of 0.9 to 4.6
m (3-15 ft); rarely on ground.
Water: Drinks water where available,
but it is uncertain whether water is required. Miller
and Stebbins (1964) suggested this species "not bothered . . . by lack
Pattern: Most numerous in open areas
mixed with tracts of brush, in arid, open land with
scattered bushes or thickets, or in chaparral edging on sparsely vegetated
Conversely, absent from extensive stands of unbroken chaparral, grassland,
vegetated desert (Grinnell and Miller 1944).
SPECIES LIFE HISTORY
Activity Patterns: Yearlong, diurnal
Seasonal Movements/Migration: None reported.
Home Range: Probably equal to territory
size. Bryant (1916) reported a "mean home
range" of "several square miles" in California. Density estimates
range from 1 pair per 100 ha
(250 ac) in desert riparian habitat in southern Nevada (Austin 1970)
to 12 males per 100 ha
(250 ac) in southern Texas brushland (Roth 1977). Cardiff (1978)
noted 5 per 100 ha (250
ac) in Mojave yucca-cholla desert scrub.
Territory: In Texas, Folse and Arnold
(1978) found a mean territory size (diameter?) of 0.7
km (0.4 mi), range 0.4-1.0 km (0.2-0.6 mi). Calder's (1968a)
data suggested a territory
diameter of 0.8 km (0.5 mi).
Reproduction: Peak of egg-laying April
and early May. Monogamous; clutch averages 3-5
eggs (range 2-8). Incubation 16-20 days, apparently mostly by
male; hatching is
asynchronous. Both sexes care for altricial young, which leave
nest about 18-30 days after
hatching (Woods 1960, Calder 1967, Ohmart 1973).
Niche: Snakes and mammals prey on young
and eggs (Folse and Arnold 1978).
Austin, G. T. 1970. Breeding birds of desert riparian habitat
in southern Nevada. Condor
Bent, A. C. 1940. Life histories of North American cuckoos,
and their allies. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull.
Bryant, H. C. 1916. Habits and food of the roadrunner in
California. Univ. Calif. Publ. Zool.
Calder, W. A. 1967. Breeding behavior of the roadrunner
Geococcyx californianus. Auk
Calder, W. A. 1968a. Nest sanitation: a possible factor
in the water economy of the
roadrunner. Condor 70:279.
Calder, W. A. 1968b. The diurnal activity of the radrunner,
Geococcyx californianus. Condor
Cardiff, S. W. 1978. Mohave yucca-staghorn cholla desert
scrub. Page 102 in W. T. Van
Velzen, ed. Forty-first breeding bird
census. Am. Birds 32:49-125.
Folse, L. J. Jr., and K. A. Arnold. 1978. Population ecology
of roadrunners (Geococcyx
californianus) in south Texas. Southwest
Garrett, K., and J. Dunn. 1981. Birds of southern California.
Los Angeles Audubon Soc.
Grinnell, J., and A. H. Miller. 1944. The distribution
of the birds of California. Pac. Coast
Avifauna No. 27. 608pp.
Miller, A. H., and R. C. Stebbins. 1964. The lives of desert
animals in Joshua Tree National
Monument. Univ. California Press, Berkeley.
Ohmart, R. D., and E. L. Smith. 1973. North American clapper
rail (Rallus longirostris)
literature survey with special consideration
being given to the past and current status of
yumanensis. U.S. Dep. Inter., Bur. Rec.,
Boulder City NV. 45pp.
Roth, R. R. 1977. The composition of four bird communities
in south Texas brush-
grasslands. Condor 79:417-425.
Whitson, M. 1975. coutship behavior of the greater roadrunner.
Living Bird 14:215-255.
Woods, R. S. 1960. Notes on the nesting of the roadrunner.
Wright, R. E. 1973. Observations on the urban feeding habits
of the roadrunner (Geococcyx
californianus). Condor 75:246.
Compiled from information from California Department of Fish and Game - California Interagency Wildlife Task Group