A Looney Tunes Favorite Bird: How Fast Can A Roadrunner Run?

Chong Lhungdim
Aug 31, 2023 By Chong Lhungdim
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Greater Roadrunner running in Texas Desert

You must be aware of a road runner bird and Wile E Coyote if you have watched the amazing series, 'Looney Tunes'.

One of the things 'Looney Tunes' has taught us is that roadrunners are quite fast and strong runners. The series was mostly about the roadrunner outrunning a coyote, but the reality is quite the opposite.

Animals like roadrunners generally max out and feel tired at about 20 mph (32.18 kph) running speed, while coyotes have a running speed of 34.79-42.87 mph (56-69 kph). There are two types of roadrunners, known as greater roadrunners and lesser roadrunners.

The greater roadrunner is a bird species from the cuckoo family. They are one of the fastest running ground cuckoo birds with a long crest and tails.

The greater roadrunner is scientifically known as Geococcyx californianus, and generally resides or can be found from southwestern Missouri to northern Mexico and the United States. Lesser roadrunner is scientifically known as Geococcyx velox.

These birds weigh around 9.8 oz (280 g), and they are small in size. As terrestrial birds, they prefer to walk, run, and stay on land rather than flying. But it doesn't mean that they cannot fly.

Roadrunners fly only when it is necessary. Their bodies are filled with feathers, and they have strong legs and wings.

Their diet or prey mainly consists of snakes, lizards, spiders, snails, mice, eggs, and other insects. Roadrunners tend to prefer desert shrublands for their habitat.

If you want to learn more similar content, you can also check how fast can a moose run and how fast can a horse run.

How fast can a roadrunner run at top speed?

Among the two birds, a lesser roadrunner can reach a running speed between 15-20 mph (24.14-32 kph), while a greater roadrunner can reach an average speed of 25 mph (40 kph). However, their running speed greatly depends on the situation they are in.

These birds species differ in coloration. Lesser roadrunners have a darker body coloration, while greater roadrunners have a light coloration.

These animals have a zygodactyl type of feet formation, where two toes are forward, while the other two are backward. Roadrunners rarely engage themselves in flight, because even though they can fly, they mostly prefer to stay on land.

When being chased by predators, or when they are hunting their prey, greater roadrunners can reach a top speed of 26.09 mph (42 kph). Lesser roadrunners can reach a top speed of 26 mph (41.84 kph).

Roadrunners have a great running speed, especially the greater roadrunner, considering its size and being a bird.

However, it is a known fact that a roadrunner cannot outrun a coyote in reality, contrary to the 'Looney Tunes' cartoon where the coyote was a predator to this bird. However, it would be quite tough for a human to outrun this bird with a top speed of 27.78 mph (44.72 kph), unless you are Usain Bolt!

It is also believed that the diet of these birds, including lizards, snakes, and other insects, has also contributed to the roadrunner's strength and speed.

They have a body full of feathers and quite a long tail, which makes them easy to differentiate from other bird families. They can be found in dry habitat regions like desert scrubland, agricultural lands, near a road, and woodland.

How fast can a baby roadrunner run in mph?

It is for sure that a baby roadrunner is just as active as the adults. However, research has not covered the speed of these young runners as they spend most of their time staying in their nest.

Also, a baby roadrunner's ability to run will not be as strong or as fast as the adults since they are still young and have weak legs. Starting during their childhood, they spend most of their time on the ground rather than among the trees and clouds.

Once the little ones eat food like insects and start to grow, they will develop longer tails and stronger legs with better running speed. Their running speed also helps them to save themselves from predators like coyotes, even though coyotes end up catching them.

They have zygodactyl feet, where their two toes are pointing backward, and two toes forward. This also helps them in running fast.

Do road runners run all time?

It is true that when you spot a roadrunner, you might find them on the ground foraging food to eat or walking and running around. This is mainly because they prefer to spend most of their time on land, walking and running, although they are capable of flight.

A roadrunner may spend 80% of their lifetime on the ground since they highly enjoy moving around with their strong legs. Most of the time, they also prey on small land animals by running and chasing them.

Do road runners run or fly more?

Roadrunners definitely spend most of their time running, rather than flying since they prefer staying on the land, and if you have such a great speed, who wouldn't? These birds are highly determined and active in nature and lead a solitary life or stay in pairs during the breeding season.

Even though roadrunners can fly, they are highly attached to the ground and prefer running and walking around. Their strong legs make it easier and adaptive for them to do so.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Looney Tunes favorite bird: how fast can a roadrunner run?

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Written by Chong Lhungdim

Bachelor's degree specializing in Economics, Master's degree specializing in Public Policy

Chong Lhungdim picture

Chong LhungdimBachelor's degree specializing in Economics, Master's degree specializing in Public Policy

With extensive knowledge in economics, public policy, and finance, Chong is a highly qualified professional with a Bachelor's degree in Economics St Andrew's College of Arts, Science and Commerce and a Postgraduate degree in Public Policy from the University of Mumbai. Her enthusiasm for research and content writing has led her to develop expertise in various fields of economic and public policy analysis. Chong has experience in research, data analysis, and producing high-quality content.

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