How Fast Does a Roadrunner Run?

Roadrunners are birds of the southwestern United States and Mexico. They inhabit arid and semiarid regions and have a varied diet. Made famous by a children’s cartoon, roadrunners got their name for their tendency to run along the ground rather than fly through the air. In this article you will find out some facts about the roadrunner, including how fast it can run.

Time Frame

  • Roadrunners have been clocked at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour. They prefer sprinting to flying but will fly to escape such predators as coyotes. A roadrunner will travel with its tail and its head held parallel to the ground. Their speed is often overestimated because of their ability to weave in and out of brush rapidly, making them appear a bit faster than they really are.


  • New Mexico claims the roadrunner as its state bird, doing so in March of 1949. Also known as the chaparral bird, the roadrunner lives from California east through Arkansas and portions of Louisiana and southwards deep into Mexico.


  • There are two species of roadrunner- the greater roadrunner and the lesser roadrunner. The lesser version is found in Mexico and Central America while the greater roadrunner is the American bird. The greater roadrunner is the size of a chicken but much slimmer. It has an extended tail and a short and shaggy crest on its head. The colors of the roadrunner are a light brown streaked with darker patches. The crest has a bluish hue to it. The roadrunner has a long and very sturdy beak.


  • The fame of the “Roadrunner” cartoons, in which the bird speeds along and goes “Beep, Beep!” has led people to believe that this is how roadrunners act. But roadrunners are actually members of the cuckoo family and their call sounds more like “Coo-coo-coo-coooooooo.” It can also make a whrrrrrrring sound. Roadrunners are at the center of a particularly ridiculous legend that tells how if a roadrunner is bitten by a rattlesnake that it can go and eat a special herb that acts as an antidote to the venom. This is not at all true.


  • These birds are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Roadrunners are famous for their ability to kill snakes, especially rattlesnakes. They will also eat tarantulas and scorpions. They use their speed to run down lizards which they kill with their beak. Roadrunners also eat small birds, which they will actually leap into the air to catch. Roadrunners swallow snakes whole, so it is not unusual to see one walking around as it tries to digest it, the snake hanging from its mouth.