Is There a Difference Between a Male and a Female Roadrunner?

By Jenny Green

Viewers never find out whether the cartoon roadrunner that teases Wile E. Coyote is male or female, and that's a realistic representation of this speedy bird. A member of the cuckoo family, the greater roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) lives in the southwestern United States and southern Mexico, where its range overlaps with the lesser roadrunner (Geococcyx velox). Male and female birds look alike and behave differently only when breeding.

Birds of a Feather

An adult female and male roadrunner look alike, but plumage and eye patch colors are different on a juvenile bird. A crest of black feathers is the most noticeable feature of the greater roadrunner, and both sexes have dark brown plumage streaked heavily with white covering the head and neck. The neck and legs are blue, and behind the eyes the skin is streaked red and blue. A juvenile roadrunner's plumage is more bronze than an adult's and its eye patch is dull.

Different Strokes

During mating and breeding a female and a male roadrunner behave differently. To persuade the female to accept him, the male offers her some food, such as a snake or lizard. He also wags his tail, bows and makes a whirring or cooing sound before mounting the female. When the pair build a nest, the male searches for nesting materials to bring to the female as she builds nest. If the male takes too long, the female makes a whining noise to tell him to hurry up. Both parents sit on the eggs and feed the chicks.