Roadrunner Eating Mouse


If you love cute little mice, it is perhaps best not to view the photos at the bottom of this post. If you don’t mind nature in the raw, click on the links to see the photographs.


Chuck, our neighborhood Greater Roadrunner about whom we have written before, had a meal on our fence the other day. It was not the usual bits of hamburger we leave out for him; it was a mouse. As you can see from the photographs, he swallowed it whole. Roadrunners are omnivorous little cuckoos — which is to say they will eat about anything they can get their beaks on — and obviously can down a large meal at once.

No wonder Wily E. Coyote is always after the roadrunner in the cartoons. The little speedsters are full of organic food. Eating one would give a coyote all its basic food groups in a single meal. Of course, coyotes seldom catch roadrunners. Roadrunners, on the other hand, catch lots of birds. Like Peregrine Falcons, roadrunners first pluck all the feathers out of their avian cousins before swallowing them whole. Swallowing their prey whole is their favored method of eating. Eating Horned Lizards whole can be hazardous though so they turn them upside down and swallow them head first so the spines don’t catch in their throats.

Greater Roadrunners eat a lot. Scientists studied the dining habits of a New Mexico roadrunner one winter. Here is what the bird ate in one day:

497 darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae), 2 lady beetles (Coccinellidae), 5 milkweed bugs (Lygaeidae), 5 grasshoppers (Locustidae), 3 assassin flies (Asilidae), 4 butterfly larva (Lepidoptera; Geluso 1970).

Around our house, that bird would have also had a few bites of hamburger and maybe an entire mouse. Their stomachs can hold up to 40 cubic centimeters of food at a time. Despite what that one New Mexico roadrunner ate, they are more likely to eat birds, fruits and seeds in the winter simply because of availability. Their calorie needs are probably lower in the winter because of their ability to lower their body temperatures during cold nights. (From about 40 degrees centigrade to 34 degrees.)

Chuck has a friend around now. More about her in a later post.





UPDATE: Mice are not all that Greater Roadrunners eat.  They eat birds as well.


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3 Responses to “Roadrunner Eating Mouse”

  1. dan musetti Says:

    I live in the Hemet area of southern Calif. What do roadrunners do in the winter they seem to disappear for months I might see one in two months during the winter they seem to be very common in early spring and summer I might see 3to5 everyday Do they hibernate like whop-o-wills. thanks Hemet

    • fatfinch Says:

      Hi. No, roadrunners do not hibernate. In fact, you are right, the Common Poorwill is the only bird known to hibernate. We’ve experienced the same thing with our roadrunner visitors. You’ll probably see yours again this Spring. Most likely, yours simply move to different territory each year, perhaps in search of a mate. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Rob Says:

    I just bought a house in New Mexico and I have a roadrunner that comes by everyday. The first month the roadrunner would leave the raw hamburger I left out everyday. A couple of weeks ago he came to the house hopping on one leg. It appears his one leg is broken. I started feeding him a mouse a day. At first I fed him a little “hopper” but the store ran out and I bought some mice about 3 inches long. He ate these too. Should I buy the 3 inchers or keep them smaller?

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