Roadrunner Vs Rattlesnake: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Amazing Desert Animals: Roadrunner
© Dennis W Donohue/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kyle Glatz

Updated: January 11, 2024

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Roadrunners are desert-dwelling birds famous for their prankster cartoon counterparts. However, these cuckoos are very real, but they certainly aren’t going to provoke the likes of a coyote. In the rocky, sandy deserts, roadrunners come into contact with many creatures, including the rattlesnake. These venomous creatures attack and kill their prey with fast-acting venom before swallowing their prey whole. So, what happens when the roadrunner stumbles upon a rattlesnake? We’ll show you the winner of a roadrunner vs rattlesnake fight.   

Comparing a Roadrunner and a Rattlesnake

Without a bite from a rattlesnake, a roadrunner will win a fight with a rattlesnake.
RoadrunnerRattlesnake
SizeWeight: 8oz-15oz
Height: 20in-24in
Weight: 5lbs-10lbs
Length: 4ft-8ft Larger rattlesnakes are possible
Speed and Movement Type-15-26 mph, the latter speed is only reachable over a short distance  – 2-3 mph
Sidewinder rattlesnakes can reach 18 mph
– Timber rattlesnakes have a striking speed of 2.9 meters per second  
Senses– Good sight
–  Unknown sense of smell or taste
Heat-sensing pits allow them to sense warm-blooded animals
– Poor hearing, but they can sense vibrations
– Flick their tongues to “taste” the chemicals in the air  
Defenses– Speed
– Ability to fly short distances    
– Camouflage
– The rattling threat display scares many creatures
– Ability to slither into small areas  
Offensive CapabilitiesUses its small, sharp beak to peck at prey
– May grab prey and slam it against the ground    
– Deadly venom
– Swift striking speed at almost 3 m/s
Predatory Behavior– Opportunistic predator that eats creatures it comes upon in the wild      – Ambush predator that attacks from cover    

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Roadrunner and a Rattlesnake?

What Do Roadrunners Eat?

Roadrunners kill rattlesnakes quite frequently, but they opt for the smaller ones.

©iStock.com/NaturesDisplay

A roadrunner would win a fight against a rattlesnake. In fact, roadrunners are one of the few animals that regularly attack and kill a rattlesnake. A roadrunner must be careful when attacking a rattlesnake because if they get bitten, they will die.

They would approach the rattlesnake, dance around them, pecking here and there until they see an opening. When the time is right, they will dash toward the rattlesnake, grab it by the head, and repeatedly slam its head against the ground until the snake dies. When they grab the snake in such a way, they have immobilized the only threat posed by the snake because they aren’t constrictors.

That doesn’t mean a roadrunner can’t die in this fight, though. If a rattlesnake managed to ambush a roadrunner, it would win the fight with a deadly bite. Also, the rattlesnake could fight the roadrunner to a draw by landing a bite and getting killed first. However, the most likely outcome is that a roadrunner would kill a rattlesnake as long as its not one of the larger ones.

The Key Factors in a Fight Between a Roadrunner and a Rattlesnake

Massasauga on a rock

A fight between a roadrunner and rattlesnake depends on physical characteristics and fighting instincts.

©Rusty Dodson/Shutterstock.com

Deciding the winner in a roadrunner vs rattlesnake fight is no small matter. We have to take into consideration several factors before we decide which animal stands the best chance of killing the other.

For that to happen, we are going to look at the physical traits of these animals along with how they employ them. It’s not enough to say that one creature is faster than another or has deadly venom. We must take a close look at their size, speed, senses, and defenses and integrate that with their combat skills. That is precisely how we’re going to determine the winner.  

What Are Key Differences Between a Roadrunner and a Rattlesnake?

What Do Roadrunners Eat?

Roadrunners are birds, and rattlesnakes are snakes.

©iStock.com/Frank Fichtmüller

The key differences between a roadrunner and a rattlesnake are morphology and size. Roadrunners are birds from the cuckoo family and rattlesnakes are land-dwelling, venomous snakes that slither on the ground. Their body shapes are their greatest difference; with the roadrunner being capable of short flights and running, but snakes use a slithering form of locomotion.

Roadrunners are both smaller and lighter than rattlesnakes on average, weighing just under one pound. Rattlesnakes are thick, muscular creatures that weigh more than 10lbs and grow several feet in length.

These differences greatly impact the fight between these this snake and birds.  

Physical Features of a Roadrunner and a Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are larger than many roadrunners, and they are known for their distinctive rattle

©DMartin09/Shutterstock.com

Battles in the animal world are typically won by the larger, stronger creatures. Yet, this case is different because we have to compare two animals with very different bodies. So, we’re going to examine five important physical characteristics of the roadrunner and rattlesnake and show you how they stack up to one another.

Roadrunner vs Rattlesnake: Size

Rattlesnakes are larger than roadrunners. Roadrunners can grow up to two feet long and two feet high, but they often weigh under one pound. Rattlesnakes often grow between 4ft and 8ft in length, and they can weigh up to 10lbs.

Rattlesnakes have the size advantage.

Roadrunner vs Rattlesnake: Speed and Movement

Roadrunners are a lot faster than rattlesnakes. These birds can run between 15 mph and 26 mph, but that higher speed is only over short distances. Rattlesnakes are far slower, usually only capable of slithering at 2-3 mph. Some species, like the sidewinder, can move at speeds over 15 mph.

However, they have a very fast striking speed, upwards of 2.9 meters per second, much too fast for many creatures to avoid.

Roadrunners have the advantage in speed.

Roadrunner vs Rattlesnake: Senses

Snakes have highly attuned senses that allow them to detect heat, chemical signals in the air that they “taste”, and even feel vibrations on the ground.

Roadrunners have good vision, but few studies have been done on many of their other senses. However, it seems clear that they lack great hearing and smell.

Rattlesnakes have an advantage in senses.  

Roadrunner vs Rattlesnake: Physical Defenses

Rattlesnakes are known for their ability to camouflage and their threat display that includes their telltale rattle. They can also hide in small places or even wriggle around in the sand to cover themselves. All these are beneficial forms of defense.

Roadrunners’ defenses are based on their speed and ability to fly short distances. These defenses are not profound.

Rattlesnakes have better defenses than roadrunners.

Combat Skills of a Roadrunner and a Rattlesnake

Florida Rattler

Rattlesnakes have deadly venom that allows them to win fights or make it a pyrrhic victory.

©iStock.com/Paulo Almeida

Roadrunners are not great fighters, but they use the tools they have to great effects. They have a long, sharp beak, but it’s not great for tearing into flesh. It’s made to help them grab and eat prey after pecking it or holding it while they smack it into the ground.

Rattlesnakes are great ambush predators. Their senses are attuned to help them locate prey, they can hide well, and their venom can end a fight in minutes. Best of all, they have an amazingly quick striking speed, making it tough for many creatures to dodge their attacks.


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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