ROADRUNNERS: Made for Running!

Roadrunners: Made for Running!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

( Isaiah 40:31)

Therefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of testifying-witnesses [μαρτυρων ], let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

( Hebrews 12:1 )
GREATER ROADRUNNER (Wikipedia / PhreddieH3 photo credit)

Seeing a Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus, a/k/a Chaparral Bird) scampering about in the grass, near the east side of my lawn, last Friday (12 May, A.D.2023), reminded me of the hidden-in-plain-view miracle of running. Roadrunners are cuckoo-like birds, capable of flight yet more famous for on-the-ground running (including chasing and catching insects and reptilian prey), easily recognizable by their skinny-chicken-looking bodies, sporting long tails, scissors-like beak, and prominent crest feathers.

( photo credit: News / Bonnie Blink )

And Roadrunners are quick! (See, e.g., “Sneaky Roadrunner”, posted at — and also see “Dueling with a Diamondback i the Desert: ROADRUNNER vs. RATTLESNAKE!”, posted at .)

For a recent news report on a snake-eating roadrunner, see Robyn White’s “Hungry Bird Takes on Venomous Snake—and Wins””, posted at .

GREATER ROADRUNNER in Mojave Desert, California
( photo credit: Wikipedia / Jessie Eastland )

Running is an astounding activity, although we rarely think of running that way. (And chasing is even more amazing, because it involves 2 creatures running at the same time, with one trying to catch while the other tries to escape!). However, if we only saw an animal–or a human–running once in a lifetime we might recognize the physiology of running as the God-given miracle that is. But, because we see creatures run about, frequently, we lose sight of how astonishing the action of running really is.

Running requires coordinated and energetic movement, integrating purpose, distance, and body parts and systems working together with teamwork (see 1st Corinthians chapter 12), so the bioengineering needed to enable running is an energetic and ongoing exhibit of the Lord Jesus Christ’s empowering genius and wisdom. (See, accord, Randy J. Guliuzza, “Made in His Image: Beauty in Motion”, posted at .)

Children assume that running is normal; grandparents watch runners with nostalgia, remembering when sprinting felt effortless. Running, if and when it is accomplished with ease, is a blessing–the ability to run is a marvelous gift from our God Who invented the ability to run. In fact, the Lord gave the gift of running to more than just human children, and athletes who are older than children–He gave the gift of running to many of the animal He created.

CHEETAH running (Answers in Genesis photo credit)

Among mammal s, notable runners include feline family (such as cheetah, jaguar, and cougar, sprinting at speeds near 70 mph!), antelope-like beasts (such as pronghorn, springbok antelope, and Indian blackbuck antelope, reaching speeds of 50 to 60 mph), wildebeest (running at 50 mph), and even bats (such as free-tailed bat, flying at 60 mph!). Other fast-footed mammals include the African lion and the hare (both climaxing at almost 50 mph, and running longer distances at lesser speeds), as well as the African wild dog and Australia’s kangaroo (both climaxing at almost 45 mph).

But, what about birds? Many birds move at speeds that are mind-boggling, such as the figure-eight wing-beating of hummingbirds, which appear as blurs to the watching eyes of human spectators–some capable of speeds above 40 mph!)..

Likewise, birds can fly at high speeds, both horizontally and especially when “dive-bombing” (a/k/a stoop diving) downward—think of falcons (e.g., Peregrine Falcon, with horizontal speeds up to almost 70 mph, and diving speed above 240 mph!). Likewise, eagles are famous for their speed (e.g., Golden eagle, with horizontal speed near 30 mph, and diving speed near 200 mph).

EAGLE diving down! ( photo credit: )

Indeed, the Holy Bible refers to the eagle’s speedy flight more than once.

Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.

( 2nd Samuel 1:23 )

Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness.

( Lamentations 4:19 )

Yet birds can be rapid runners on ground, too–with the Roadrunner being the classic example of a bird famous for running.

OSTRICH running ( photo credit: Thomson Safaris )

Actually, Africa’s Ostrich runs faster, achieving speeds up to 43 mph (with some reports of quick sprint-bursts up to 60 mph!), qualifying the Ostrich as the fleetest terrestrial runner among birds! Ostriches have stamina, too, so they can sustain speeds above 30 mph for a half-hour or even longer–no human can do that! Behind the Ostrich, Australia’s Emu (a smaller ratite) zooms by, racing at speeds above 30 mph.

ROADRUNNER with prey (photo credit: Nature Picture Library)

Yet the Greater Roadrunner, a much smaller bird, can dart about at speeds above 25 mph–faster than even fleet-footed children.

So, you get the picture–running is a big deal! On that note I’ll quit–i.e., rest–because I ‘got tired” just thinking about all of those creatures running to and fro. Actually, to be frank, I NEVER GET TIRED! Why? I don’t “get tired” because I stay tired.


GREATER ROADRUNNER at Caprock Canyons State Park in West Texas
( photo credit: Wikipedia / drumguy8800 )

Having arrived at this blogpost’s “finish line”, I’ll contribute this limerick:


After filling my mower with gas,

I was cutting my east lawn’s grass;

Whoa! — it gave me a start!

‘Twas a bird that did dart!

Wow! Texas roadrunners run fast!

ROADRUNNER, on the run!
(photo credit: Wikipedia / El Brujo+ )

Lee’s Two Word Tuesday – 4/5/16


Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Nathan Davis Bing



Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. (1 Corinthians 9:24 KJV)

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Nathan Davis Bing


More Daily Devotionals


Sneaky Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) Reinier Munguia

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) Reinier Munguia

Sneaky Roadrunner ~ by Dr. James J. S. Johnson

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18 KJV)

Luzon Bleeding-heart by Dan


Roadrunners are unusual birds.   When you think of birds, usually you think of birds that fly.  But not roadrunners – mostly they run (up to 20 miles per hour!), or walk very quickly (“race-walking”).  But roadrunners sometimes fly short distances, if they want to escape someone.  Once I saw one fly from my home’s front yard to the roof of our house.  But a roadrunner’s usual exit strategy is to run.  But not always. Sometimes they try to be sneaky. Before recalling a memorable example of roadrunner sneakiness, however, a few fact about roadrunners should be reviewed.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) by Daves BirdingPix

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) by Daves BirdingPix

Roadrunners have longer legs, in proportion to their bodies, than do most birds.  Obviously God designed these roadrunners to get around on foot!  Taxonomists (i.e., those who categorize creatures into groups of common traits, by “lumping” on similarities and “splitting” on dissimilarities) classify the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus – meaning “Californian earth-cuckoo”) as a member of the cuckoo family, birds that look like half-starved chickens with long tails.  Roadrunners thrive in desert habitats, yet these black-and-white fowl are also found living in shrub-dominated lands known for hot, dry climates, such as the western half of Texas (as well as most of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and California).  See Roger Tory Peterson, WESTERN BIRDS (Houghton Mifflin, 3rd ed., 1990), range map 192.  Roadrunners can also be seen, though less frequently, in contiguous states, such as Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Missouri, and Arkansas.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Alan Murphy Flickr

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Alan Murphy Flickr

Roadrunners are not picky eaters.  Roadrunners are happy to eat bugs (insects and spiders), seeds, fruits, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, and even small birds (and their eggs), small mammals (usually rodents like mice, rats, and voles), and small reptiles (such as lizards).  One of the more unusual insects, that roadrunners are known to eat, is the tarantula hawk wasp – an amazing spider-killing wasp that the U.S. Army named one of its “unmanned aircraft” reconnaissance units after.  [See my article at — “Slow Death for a Tarantula”.]

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Flickr

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Flickr

So how can a roadrunner be “sneaky”?  A few months ago I walked out of my house’s front door, and saw a roadrunner in my path.  Startled by my approach, the roadrunner skittishly scuttled around my van, which was parked in the driveway in front of my house.  So now I was standing on the north side of my van, and the roadrunner was standing on the south side of my van.

How do I know that, since I don’t have “x-ray eyes” that can see through a parked van?   As I slowly and silently crept, counter-clockwise around the west side of my van, I could see the roadrunner, standing on the south side of my blue van: he (or was it a she?) was bent over with his head turned to the southeast, with his slender bill and face aimed directly away from me.  By bending down his head, and aiming it away from where I was standing, the roadrunner must have thought that he was hiding from me, and that I could not see him – because he could not see me!  If I had impolitely startled him, then, surely it would have hurt his feelings, or his pride, because he obviously thought he really had me fooled.  So I stood silently, unmoving, for quite a while, to see if he would notice me – only about 3 feet form him – with nothing but air between us!  The roadrunner never moved, and he never turned his head to see me, so perhaps he thought I still could not see him.  Not having the heart to correct him, I slowly and silently backed up to the north side of the van, then retreated back through my front door, into my house.  To this day the roadrunner probably thinks that his bent-over, head-turned “hiding” had fooled me.

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©thedrinkingbird Bing

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©thedrinkingbird Bing

Then I got to thinking about how often we humans act as though we could hide ourselves from God.  When our first parents first sinned (Genesis 3:8-10) they tried to hide from God, among the trees in the Garden of Eden.  (If there had been a blue van there they might have tried to hide behind it.)  Of course, the very thought of hiding from God is silly because He is omnipresent and omniscient (Psalm 139).  But, because the Lord Jesus Christ provides us with a free redemption (John 3:16), there is no good reason to be afraid of God (Hebrews 10:19), because “perfect love casts out fear” (1st John 4:18).

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Nathan Davis Bing

Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus) ©©Nathan Davis Bing

Roadrunners are fun to watch – I love watching them scoot around on their fast, race-walking legs! If roadrunners only knew how kindly I regard them they would not fear me – they don’t need to sneak around to escape me.  And, because of Jesus, there is no good reason for us to try to hide from God.

(Dr. James J. S. Johnson, now apologetics professor at ICR,  previously taught ornithology at Dallas Christina College. Mrs. Thelma Bumgardner, his second-grade teacher, introduced him to creationist ornithology.)