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Breeding Birds: Greater Roadrunner

September 15, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Thomas Penix / Los Angeles Times


(Geococcyx californianus)

Description: A large, ground-dwelling member of the cuckoo family, streaked with brown and white. Sports a long, heavy bill, bushy crest and long, white-edged tail.

Habitat: Locally it is found in open chaparral, coastal sage scrub and brushlands of river valleys, especially on edge of cultivated land.

Diet: Insects, lizards, snakes, rodents, birds; occasionally fruit and seeds.

Display: Male parades with head held high and stiff, wings

and tail drooped; precedes male mating song.

Nest: Builds nest of sticks in low tree, thicket or cactus clump; lined with leaves, grass, feathers and other materials.

Eggs: White with chalky yellowish coat, 1 1/2 inches long.

Natural history notes: This bird speeds along on long, strong legs at speeds up to 15 m.p.h. The roadrunner performs a distraction display to protect the nest. Pairs often mate for life.

Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas (now in its fifth and final year), call Sea and Sage Audubon Society members Sylvia Gallagher, (714) 962-8990, or Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160.

Note: Map is divided into 5-kilometer squares so that Audubon Society volunteers can more easily survey areas on a regular basis.

Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

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