Every child who has ever seen a cartoon featuring Wile E Coyote and Road Runner has to have wondered if poor Wile E ever had a fair shot at catching the Road Runner.  According to Mark Lockwood’s Basic Texas Birds: A Field Guide, with or without Wile. E. Coyote chasing it, a Greater Roadrunner can reach speeds of 20 MPH (32 KPH) while a Coyote can reach speeds of up to 43 MPH (69 KPH).  Clearly, in an all out footrace, the roadrunner would be dinner.

Of course, a couple facts get in the way of Wile E Coyote snacking on Road Runner.  First of all, roadrunners have an amazing ability to use ground cover as they run and they rarely move in a straight line.  Wild coyotes can’t expect roadrunners to actually stick to the road when their life is on the line!  There is also the really pesky fact that roadrunners can fly.  They prefer not to but if a coyote were about to catch a roadrunner that roadrunner would take to the wing and be gone!

Finally, despite what Warner Brothers would like you to believe, there has never been a documented instance of a coyote catching a roadrunner.** Shocking, no?  Especially considering that coyotes are known to eat pretty much everything!  It’s as if all the cartoons I watched as a child were just made up scenarios in pretend worlds with no actual relation to reality and no practical use whatsoever.  Oh well.

It would seem that despite the greater speed of the coyote, and, considering its adaptability to multiple habitats, what is likely a greater native intelligence, that the roadrunner will somehow always stay one step ahead of its cartoon nemesis.  To that, there is only one thing to say.


Should a coyote someday catch a roadrunner the result would likely be something like this:

*Citation for Greater Roadrunner speeds found via Wikipedia’s Greater Roadrunner page and information about the top speed of a Coyote came via Fact Monster.

**Sentence edited after a correction in the comments.

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.