Courtship behavior involves the male’s foot pursuit of the female, with frequent rests. Food is an important component of the mating ritual. The male will tempt the female with a morsel such as a lizard or snake dangling from its beak. If the female accepts the offered food, the pair will probably mate. In another display, the male wags his tail in front of the female while bowing and making a whirring or cooing sound; he then jumps into the air and onto his mate. Greater roadrunner pairs may mate for life.
Mating System: monogamous
The breeding and nesting seasons vary geographically. In regions where there is one rainy season they nest only in the spring. Where there are two rainy seasons and thus more food resources, they will nest again in August and September. Brood size ranges from 2 to 8 eggs, which are white or pale yellow. Incubation lasts about 20 days and begins after the first few eggs are laid. Hatching is therefore asynchronous. Young are altricial and their development is quite rapid; they can run and catch their own prey at 3 weeks. Sexual maturity is reached at 2 to 3 years of age.
Breeding interval: Greater roadrunners breed either once or twice a year, depending on available food resources.
Breeding season: May-September
Range eggs per season: 2 to 8.
Average time to hatching: 20 days.
Average fledging age: 18 days.
Range time to independence: 30 to 40 days.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 3 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 3 years.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization
Average time to hatching: 20 days.
Average eggs per season: 4.
Both parents help build the nest; while the male collects the materials, the female does most of the construction. The nest site is almost always a few feet above the ground in a bush, cactus, or low tree. It is made with sticks, grass, feathers, and sometimes snakeskin or cow manure. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the chicks once they hatch. Although the young leave the nest within 18 to 21 days, the parents continue to feed them for up to 30 to 40 days.
Greater roadrunners occasionally engage in brood parasitism. For example, roadrunner eggs have been observed in the nests of the common raven and the northern mockingbird.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)
- Aragon, , Moller, Soler, Soler. 1999. Molecular phylogeny of cuckoos supports a polyphyletic origin of brood parasitism. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 12: 495-506.
- Baughman, G. 2003. Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
- Bull, J. 1978. Simon and Schuster's Guide to Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Gough, G., J. Sauer, M. Iliff. 1998. "USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter" (On-line). Life History Groupings. Accessed December 28, 2004 at http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/Lifehistory/lh3850.html.
- Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Stokes, D., L. Stokes. 1996. Stokes Field Guide to Birds. New York: Little Brown and Company.
- Youth, H. 1997. "Meet the Real Roadrunner" (On-line). Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Accessed October 24, 2004 at http://nationalzoo.si.edu/publications/zoogoer/1997/3/meetrealroadrunner.cfm.