Do Roadrunners Get Chased by Coyotes?
by Lindsay Bradshaw, Animal Care Manager
I bet when you hear the word “roadrunner”, a popular cartoon character comes to mind (Meep! Meep!). It’s the one in which a crafty coyote chases a roadrunner around the desert creating all sorts of obstacles for him that he then cleverly evades. Most people are surprised to learn that real life roadrunners are much smaller than the cartoon would have you believe. Standing only 10”-12”, they are much smaller than a coyote and although the two animals both occupy the same habitat, the fast, agile, nature of the roadrunner makes it an unlikely meal for any coyote.
Roadrunners live in the desert, where temperatures can soar high during the day but drop drastically at night. To warm up in the morning, roadrunners fluff up the feathers on their backs, exposing black skin to the sun, where it then absorbs the heat. In midday, when temperatures are hot, roadrunners reduce their activity by up to 50%. They have a couple of other fascinating adaptations that make them suited for a desert lifestyle – they can reabsorb water from their feces before excretion (like many other desert animals), and they have a diet consisting mainly of other animals, like insects, lizards, or rodents, which are high in fluids to keep themselves hydrated. Roadrunners are also fast and bold enough to be able to successfully hunt rattlesnakes!
Roadrunners, like their name suggests, prefer to run or walk rather than fly (although they are capable of flight). They can reach ground speeds of up to 17mph! Although a coyote can achieve speeds higher than that, the roadrunner has better stamina and can move quickly among the shrubs and low bushes that characterize their landscape. It doesn’t mean they are safe from all predators – animals like birds of prey, house cats, and raccoons have been known to prey on roadrunners.
The roadrunner is a very special bird because of the adaptations it has to live in a harsh landscape, so next time you are at the Living Coast Discovery Center, come meet Chevy the roadrunner, the newest addition to our bird family and one you are sure to love!
Lindsay Bradshaw is the Animal Care Manager at the Living Coast Discovery Center. She has worked for several animal-focused organizations, including Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, Maui Ocean Center, and the Vancouver Aquarium.