The Lesser roadrunner is a large fast-running ground cuckoo from Mesoamerica. It resembles the Greater roadrunner in appearance and habit but is smaller, with a less streaked throat and chest, brownish on the rump, and on the outer wings and yellowish undersides. The Lesser roadrunner also has a significantly shorter bill. Its crown, crest, and neck are black with a bronze glow and small light brown spots. Young roadrunners resemble adults but have ocher-colored lines and duller skin around the eye.
Lesser roadrunners breed in southwestern Mexico, north into the western side of the Sierra Madre Occidental range, along with northern Central America and a disjunct range in the northern Yucatán Peninsula. These birds inhabit open ground areas, with scrub and thorny bushes. They also adapt to cultivated land such as henequen and cornfields.
Lesser roadrunners are very territorial birds and are usually seen singly or in pairs. They spend most of their time on the ground, running in open areas, along roads or under cover. Despite that the birds are capable of limited flight especially when escaping predators and may perch in bushes or low trees. Lesser roadrunners are diurnal and often bask in the early morning, on a fence post or bush. They cock their tail and droop their wings, then turn their back towards the sun, raising the scapular feathers and exposing their black skin which absorbs heat. They may preen themselves as well. Their call is a series of soft "cooing", about one note per second, made three to seven times on a descending scale.
Lesser roadrunners are omnivores. They are opportunistic feeders, however, grasshoppers make up a significant portion part of their diet, as do caterpillars. The birds also eat seeds, fruit, small reptiles, and frogs. They forage around roadsides for large insects and roadkill.
Lesser roadrunners are monogamous and mate for life. In Mexico, these birds breed between April and July, and in El Salvador in August. They build their nest in a low tree, a thorn bush or in prickly pear, about 2 meters off the ground. Their nests are strong and compact, built in the shape of a cup with sturdy grass stems and twigs, with a diameter of ca 14.5 cm. The eggs, which are white in color are laid in clutches of 2 to 4. Both male and female roadrunners incubate and feed the hatchlings. The chicks stay with their parents for about 1 or 2 weeks and then become independent.
There are no major threats facing the Lesser roadrunner at present.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Lesser roadrunner population size is around 500,000-4,999,999 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.