New Mexico State Bird

The New Mexico State Bird

The Greater Roadrunner - State Bird Of New Mexico

The New Mexico state bird is the Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx Californianus. It goes by other names, too, such as El Correcaminos, El Paisano and Chaparral Bird. This long-legged bird is in the genus of the cuckoo family.

The Greater Roadrunner can normally be found in the American Southwest and South-Central Mexico. Its prevalence throughout New Mexico, especially in lower elevations, led to the Greater Roadrunner being named the state bird of New Mexico.

It is not uncommon to see these guys (and girls) running across the road, across yards, and on the state’s trails.
A Little Bit About The Greater Roadrunner

The roadrunner can run a maximum of 15 miles per hour. This is really important, because it has a weak ability to fly and hesitates to do it. You might see them flap violently to land on a fence or get over an obstacle, but that’s about it.

Its physical features include a shaggy chest, crest shaped face and a long tail. The New Mexico state bird has patches of orange and blue beneath its eyes and a long, thick, dark bill. Its back varies from dark gray to brown. The overall dominant colors on its body are white and brown, making for excellent camouflage in the desert.

The state bird of New Mexico is well suited to life in the desert. In order to survive, its body temperature drops during the night to conserve its energy. By doing this, the Greater Roadrunner can dramatically reduce its activity by 50%, saving enough energy to make it through the dry season.

When food is plentiful, the Greater Roadrunner will eat beetles, lizards, snakes, scorpions, smaller birds and sometime cactus fruits.

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greater roadrunner, geocyccyx californianus, new mexico state bird

The New Mexico state bird builds bulky nests, which can be found in bushes or in low brush, and sometimes old machinery.

A Greater Roadrunner can lay three to six eggs at once! Nothing beats seeing momma with her babies trailing after her, scurrying from one hiding place to another.
So Much Responsibility For Such A Little Bird

The state bird of New Mexico has a strong bond with the people of New Mexico. Early people, such as the Hopi, believed that if they lost their way the Greater Roadrunner would guide them to the right path. Numerous Native Americans also believe that the spirit of the roadrunner gives immunity against evil spirits in addition to other mystical powers.

The legislative body of the state chose the Greater Roadrunner as its official state bird on March 16, 1949. It was sanctioned under the name “Chaparral Bird”.

In 1967 “Dusty Roadrunner” was introduced as the state symbol. Designed with a broom and red cap, the Dusty Roadrunner’s primary intention was to encourage New Mexicans to keep the state clean and maintained. The Dusty Roadrunner is considered a hard-working and buoyant caricature and soon became New Mexico’s official mascot of trash control. It also advocates conservation of natural resources. Dusty is still used these ways today.

Did you know? The New Mexico state bird was the basis for the famous Looney Tunes cartoon character the Roadrunner.
My Greater Roadrunner Story

I waited tables in Albuquerque for many years, and one of my restaurants had a resident roadrunner. This was most definitely a city bird because he was comfortable around people.

At the end of the day the cooks would take the kitchen mats out back and clean them with the water hose. As they were spraying the mats down the roadrunner would appear out of nowhere.

First he would dance a little in the water spray and clean his feathers. After preening and shaking the water off, he would stand back and wait expectantly. Cocking his head from side to side let the cooks know it was feeding time.

Our cooks spoiled that bird with all sorts of leftovers caught in the mats they were cleaning. Each piece they tossed he caught! He never seemed to miss a bit.

He especially loved feta cheese. And scrambled egg bits.

The funniest part of the story is this daily ritual made for one pudgy roadrunner. I often wish I had gotten a picture of that "fluffy" bird. He was super cute, even if he waddled a bit.

Related Pages:
New Mexico State History
New Mexico State Capital History
New Mexico State Flag
New Mexico State Flower