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Greater Roadrunner

Copyright Barbara Samuelson 1998

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Death Valley, California

The roadrunner can fly, but prefers to use the highways that man has so kindly provided to sprint after its prey. Not only can it reach speeds of up to 42 kph (25 mph), but it takes corners without slowing down. Its uses its long tail as both a rudder and a brake. It simply flips its tail up when it needs to slow down. The roadrunner is powered by solar energy. At sunrise it stores the sun's heat by raising its feathers and exposing a dark patch of skin on its lower back. The roadrunner is a kind of ground cuckoo that lives in the desert scrub of the south western United States. It eats insects, scorpions, lizards, snakes, rodents and other birds, although it may switch to a vegetarian diet during the winter when its usual prey is scarce. It is so quick it is able to catch and eat rattlesnakes. It grasps the snake by the tail and bashes its head against the ground until it is dead. Their song is a dovelike cooing, descending in pitch. Another image.


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