The State Bird of New Mexico, the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) is known by a wide variety of names including Chaparral Bird, el corrrecaminos, and el paisano. It is the larger of two ground cuckoos, the other being the Lesser Roadrunner found in Mexico and Central America. The Greater Roadrunner is found across the American southwest and south to central Mexico.
The Greater Roadrunner is found throughout much of New Mexico, mostly at lower elevations (up to 7,000 feet), and is most frequently seen running along side the roads and trails of the state. It can fly but only weakly and hesitates to do so. It has a long tail, a shaggy crest and is streaked brown below with a dusty background. The back is olive to dark grayish brown.
The birds build a bulky stick nest in low brush or even abandoned machinery. Three to six eggs are the normal clutch number. Roadrunners feed on a wide variety of prey items including snakes, lizards, beetles, small birds and rarely cactus fruits.
There is probably no State Bird more closely connected to the people of the state than the Greater Roadrunner is to the citizens of New Mexico. Early settlers for example were told that if you got lost a roadrunner would always lead you back to the path for which you were searching. Many Native American groups said that the spirit of this bird has supernatural powers. Hopi tribes used the “X” on Kachina figures to confuse evil spirits because the “X” footprint of a roadrunner doesn’t show which direction the bird is traveling.
The State Legislature adopted the Greater Roadrunner as the official State Bird on March 16, 1949. In 1969, “Dusty Roadrunner” was adopted as the official symbol of the State of New Mexico to keep the state clean and beautiful. Dusty is regarded as a jovial, hard-working bird caricature with the intent on encouraging us to keep the state clean. Complete with a red cap and broom, he was created in 1967 and adopted as the official New Mexico litter control mascot. Dusty travels the state with Keep New Mexico Beautiful, Inc. (1-800-760-KNMB), educating its citizens on the importance of preservation and conservation of natural resources and providing for community involvement.