29 Birds that Run (A to Z List with Pictures)

Birds that Run

Examples of birds that run include the American golden plover, black rail, chicken, cassowary, and ostrich.

While most birds rely on their wings for transportation, there are a few species that have adapted to running as their primary means of locomotion. The most well-known of these is the ostrich, but they are not the only bird that runs. The emu, a native of Australia, is another example of a bird that runs instead of flies.

These flightless birds are well-suited to life on the ground, with long legs and strong feet that help them cover large distances. In addition, their feathers are thick and oily, providing protection from the sun and helping to keep their bodies cool. While they may not be able to take to the air, these running birds are perfectly adapted to life on land.

Examples of Birds that Run

1. American Golden Plover

Scientific NamePluvialis dominica
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeusually found on short-grass prairies, flooded pastures, and plowed fields; less often on mudflats, and beaches. Breeds on Arctic tundra

The American golden plover is a small, migratory bird that breeds in the tundra of North America. These birds are known for their long-distance migration, which takes them from their breeding grounds all the way to South America.

While they are not the fastest runners, American golden plovers can cover large distances thanks to their long legs and strong feet. Their migration is one of the longest of any bird, and they have been known to travel up to 4,000 miles in a single journey.

Related Article: 25 Birds that Fly at Night

2. Black Rail

Scientific NameLaterallus jamaicensis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangescattered parts of North America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific region of South America, usually in coastal salt marshes but also in some freshwater marshes

The black rail is the smallest member of the rail family. It is a shy bird that is rarely seen, as it spends most of its time hidden in dense vegetation near water. When it does come out, it can be seen running along the ground in search of food. The black rail is found in marshes and wetlands across North and South America.

Related Article: 30 Birds that Hover

3. Chicken

Scientific NameGallus gallus domesticus
Type of AnimalBird

While chickens may not be able to fly, they more than makeup for it with their legs. Their strong legs and feet help them move quickly on the ground, making them able to outrun many predators. In addition, their feathers are also adapted to life on the ground, being thick and insulating to keep them warm in colder climates.

Related Article: 19 Birds that Look Like Ostriches

4. Clapper Rail

Scientific NameRallus crepitans
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesaltwater marshes and mangrove swamps from the U.S. East Coast to Central America and the Caribbean

This chicken-sized bird is found along the East Coast of the United States, from Massachusetts to Florida. It got its name from the loud “clapping” noise it makes with its bill. The Clapper Rail is a shy bird that is seldom seen in the open. It prefers to stay hidden in marshes and dense vegetation, where it can find the small crabs and insects that it likes to eat.

5. Dwarf Cassowary

Scientific NameCasuarius bennetti
Type of AnimalBird
Rangehigher elevations of New Guinea and can also be found on the island of New Britain

The smallest member of the cassowary family, the Dwarf Cassowary is a native of New Guinea. Standing just over three feet tall, this compact bird is built for running, with powerful legs and long toes that provide traction. The Dwarf Cassowary is also adept at climbing, and can often be found perching in trees.

6. Emu

Scientific NameDromaius novaehollandiae
Type of AnimalBird

The Emu is a native of Australia and is the second-largest bird in the world. The emu is a flightless bird with long legs and strong feet. The emu’s feathers are thick and oily, providing protection from the sun and helping to keep the emu’s body cool.

7. European Golden Plover

Scientific NamePluvialis apricaria
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeboreal and arctic zones from Iceland in the west through Great Britain and Scandinavia east to western Siberia

This small shorebird is a frequent sight in open fields and meadows across Europe and Asia. During the breeding season, these birds are brightly colored, with a golden-yellow plumage that gives them their name. However, they molt into a drab brown during the winter months. Despite their small size, these birds are strong runners and can easily outpace predators.

8. Gambel’s Quail

Scientific NameCallipepla gambelii
Type of AnimalBird
RangeThe Sonoran desert

This small, round bird is a common sight in the American Southwest. Gambel’s quail are fast runners and use their speed to escape predators. These birds have short wings that make flying difficult, but their legs are long and strong, allowing them to run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.

9. Greater Roadrunner

Scientific NameGeococcyx californianus
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSonoran desert and other kinds of brushy country, including chaparral and Texas brushlands

The Greater Roadrunner is a long-legged bird that can run up to 20 miles per hour. These birds are found in the southwestern United States, where they make their homes in deserts and open woodlands. Roadrunners are excellent runners and can even outrun a human.

These birds use their speed to escape from predators, but they also use it to catch prey. Roadrunners are carnivores and will eat anything from lizards and snakes to rodents and small birds

10. Guam Rail

Scientific NameGallirallus owstoni
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe islands of Rota and Cocos

The Guam rail is a small bird that is native to the island of Guam. This bird was once common on the island, but it is now considered to be extinct in the wild. The last confirmed sighting of a Guam rail was in 1988, although there have been some unconfirmed sightings since then.

11. Guinea Fowl

Scientific NameNumididae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesub-Saharan Africa

These birds are native to Africa and get their name from the country of Guinea. They are heavy birds with short wings, making them poor flyers. Instead, they rely on their legs to get around, running at speeds of up to 16 miles per hour.

12. Killdeer

Scientific NameCharadrius vociferus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangealong much of the Pacific Coast, lower elevations of the Rockies, and across the southern United States, then well into Mexico

The killdeer is a type of shorebird that is commonly found in North America. These birds get their name from their distinctive call, which sounds like “kill-deer”. Killdeers are built for running, with long legs and a sleek body. Their wings are short and rounded, making them useless for flying, but perfect for running and helping the bird to change direction quickly.

13. King Rail

Scientific NameRallus elegans
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe United States, Central America, and the Caribbean

The king rail (Rallus elegans) is a secretive bird that inhabits marshes and wetlands in the eastern United States. This bird gets its name from its loud, clattering call, which is often heard before the bird is seen. The king rail is a shy bird that is seldom seen in the open, but it can sometimes be observed running along the edges of its wetland habitat, looking for food.

14. Landrail aka Corn Crake

Scientific NameCrex crex
Type of AnimalBird
RangeEurope and Asia as far east as western China

The corn crake (Crex crex) is a small bird in the rail family. Corn crakes are found in Europe and Asia, where they breed in wet meadows and farmland. These birds are shy and difficult to see, but their distinctive call-a-loud, repetitive “crek-crek” sound is often heard in the summertime.

While most birds in the rail family are good flyers, the corn crake is a poor flier and spends most of its time on the ground, running through the grass in search of food.

15. Lesser Roadrunner

Scientific NameGeococcyx velox
Type of AnimalBird
Rangearid lowlands of Mesoamerica up to 3,000 meters in altitude

The lesser roadrunner is a small bird that is found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. These birds are not as well-known as their larger cousin, the greater roadrunner, but they are just as fast and just as adept at running. These little roadrunners can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest birds on the ground.

16. Northern Cassowary

Scientific NameCasuarius unappendiculatus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangecoastal swamp and lowland rainforests of northern New Guinea and the islands of Yapen, Batanta, and Salawati

The northern cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) is a flightless bird that is native to the tropical forests of New Guinea. These birds are the third-largest in the world, after the ostrich and emu. They can grow to be up to six feet tall and weigh up to 150 pounds.

17. Ostrich

Scientific NameStruthio camelus
Type of AnimalBird

The ostrich is the largest bird in the world, and it is also one of the fastest runners. These massive birds can reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, and they can cover long distances with ease. Ostriches are native to Africa, where they live in open plains and dry woodlands.

18. Rhea Bird

Scientific NameRhea
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesoutheastern South America, including Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina

The rhea is a large bird that is native to South America. These flightless birds can reach speeds of up to 37 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest running birds in the world. Rheas are also good swimmers and can often be seen wading in water or swimming across rivers.

19. Ridgway’s Rail

Scientific NameRallus obsoletus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesaltwater marshes, freshwater marshes, and mangrove swamps in California, Arizona, Nevada, and coastal western Mexico

Ridgway’s rail is a small bird that is found in marshes and wetlands in the western United States. These birds are brown and white, with long legs and toes that help them navigate through the wet terrain. While they are capable of flight, they prefer to run and hide from predators.

20. Sanderling

Scientific NameCalidris alba
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeon nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world

The sanderling is a small, white-wading bird that is commonly found on beaches around the world. These birds get their name from their habit of running along the shoreline in search of food. They are known for their long, thin legs and their ability to run at high speeds.

21. Sandpipers

Scientific NameScolopacidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangebeaches, estuaries, tide pools, mud flats, sand bars, and other habitats along the coast

These small, sprightly birds are often seen running along the shoreline, hunting for food in the sand. There are many different species of sandpiper, but they all share a similar body type that is designed for running. Their long legs help them cover ground quickly, and their sharp beaks are perfect for picking up small insects and crustaceans.

22. Secretary Bird

Scientific NameSagittarius serpentarius
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesub-Saharan Africa

The secretary bird is a large, long-legged bird that is native to Africa. These birds get their name from their distinctive crest of feathers, which resembles the quill pens that were once used by secretaries. These birds are powerful runners and can reach speeds of up to 3 kilometers per hour (2 miles per hour).

23. Sora

Scientific NamePorzana carolina
Type of AnimalBird
Range49 US states (the exception being Hawaii), all 10 Canadian provinces, and 2 Canadian territories

The sora is a small rail bird that is found in wetlands across North America. These shy birds are well-camouflaged, with brown and black feathers that help them blend in with their surroundings. Soras are good runners, and they often run away from predators instead of trying to fly.

24. Southern Cassowary

Scientific NameCasuarius casuarius
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe tropical rainforests of north-east Queensland, Papua New Guinea, and some surrounding islands

The southern cassowary is a large, flightless bird that is native to the rainforests of New Guinea and Australia. The cassowary is closely related to the ostrich and emu, and like these birds, it is well-suited to life on the ground.

The cassowary has a long neck and legs, and its feet are equipped with sharp claws that help it move through the dense vegetation of its rainforest home.

25. Takahe

Scientific NamePorphyrio hochstetteri
Type of AnimalBird
RangeMurchison Mountains, Fiordland National Park, and more recently Gouland Downs in Kahurangi National Park

The Takahe is a flightless bird that is native to New Zealand. These birds are similar in appearance to the ostrich, with their long legs and strong feet. However, they are much smaller than their African cousin, weighing in at around 9 kg. The Takahe is also notable for its bright blue and green plumage.

26. Tinamou Bird

Scientific NameTinamidae
Type of AnimalBird
RangeSouth America, Mexico, and Central America

The tinamou bird is a small, chicken-like bird that lives in South America. These creatures are unable to fly, but they make up for it with their ability to run quickly and easily over long distances. Their legs are strong and their feet are equipped with sharp claws that help them grip the ground as they run.

27. Virginia Rail

Scientific NameRallus limicola
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeprimarily in freshwater marshes and less often in brackish marshes

This bird is a shy creature that is more often heard than seen. It skulks in the dense vegetation at the edge of marshes, seldom moving far from cover. The Virginia rail has a long, slightly decurved bill and long toes that help it move about easily in its marshy habitat. This bird typically runs rather than flies when alarmed.

28. Weka Bird

Scientific NameGallirallus australis
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNew Zealand

The weka bird is a flightless bird that is native to New Zealand. The weka is a robust bird with strong legs and feet, which make it well-suited for life on the ground.

29. Yellow Rail

Scientific NameCoturnicops noveboracensis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeshallow marshes with fairly short vegetation

The yellow rail is a small, bird that is found in wetland habitats across North America. These shy birds are very difficult to spot, as they blend in well with their surroundings. When they are flushed from hiding, they will often run rather than fly, making them hard to catch.


There are many different types of birds adapted for running, from the ostrich to the American golden plover. Each type of bird has its own unique adaptations that help it to run faster, farther, and more efficiently. These adaptations allow birds to escape predators, catch prey, and migrate long distances.

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