Ostrich: Facts and Sightings

Ostriches are big, flightless birds called iNtshe in Zulu and mbuni in the Kenyan Swahili language. With long legs and famous protruding necks poking from their round feathered bodies, they are a unique sight on the African plains.

Ostriches are the largest birds on the planet. Ostriches may grow up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall and weigh up to 320 pounds (145 kilograms), and their eyes are 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, the largest of any land animal. Ostriches have two toes with one large clawed toe which can be used as a weapon. According to the American Ostrich Association, other birds have three or four toes.

  • Genus: Struthio; Linnaeus
  • Class: Aves
  • Family: Struthionidae
  • Order: Struthioniformes

Habitats of The Ostrich

Ostriches are exclusively found in the African wild today, where they can be found in a variety of open dry and semi-arid, protected, habitats such as savannas and the Sahel, both north and south of the equatorial forest zone.

The Somali ostrich is found in the Horn of Africa, where it evolved separately from the common ostrich due to the East African Rift’s geographic barrier. The Masai subspecies of the common ostrich coexists in some locations with the Somali ostrich, but behavioral and ecological differences prevent interbreeding.

By the middle of the twentieth century, Arabian ostriches had been hunted to extinction in Asia Minor and Arabia, and attempts in Israel to replace them with North African ostriches failed. In Australia, feral groups of common ostriches have emerged.

Best Places To See Ostriches in The Wild

Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of the best places to see ostriches in the wild. With the park being only 1 hour from Ngala airport, and 4 hours 30 drive minutes from Johannesburg, sighting the speedy birds is a convenient option.

Physical Characteristics of Ostriches

Ostriches are fast and strong runners, despite their inability to fly. They can sprint up to 43 miles per hour (69 km) and run at 31 (49km) miles per hour over long distances. They may use their wings as “rudders” to aid in direction change when sprinting. Males attract females with their vivid black-and-white coloration. The females, on the other hand, have a light brown coloration. Ostriches are the world’s largest birds, growing up to seven feet and weighing up to 150 kg (=330 lbs).

Ostrich: Facts and Sightings
Ostrich: Facts and Sightings | Ostriches Have 2 Toes

In a single stride, an ostrich’s muscular, lengthy legs can cover 10 to 17 feet to out jump predators. These legs and sharp claws can also be used as powerful weapons. Kicks from an ostrich can kill a human or a prospective predator such as a lion. A long, pointed claw protrudes from each two-toed foot.

The blue-legged, blue-necked, ostrich inhabiting Somalia to northern Kenya is now known as the Somali Ostrich

Fiction About Ostriches

Ostriches do not, contrary to common perception, bury their heads in the sand. The old adage is most likely derived from one of the bird’s defensive responses. When danger approaches, ostriches will lie low and push their long necks to the ground in an attempt to blend into the background. Their plumage blends in well with sandy terrain and from a distance creates the impression that they have buried their heads in the sand.

Ostriches With Heads in the Sand is a Myth
Ostriches With Heads in the Sand is a Myth, Though They Try to Stay Hidden

Ostriches are omnivores but largely eat a variety of vegetation, roots, grass and seeds. occasionally they will compliment their diet with insects, lizards, and other small animals found in their sometimes-harsh environment.

Fantastic Facts About Ostriches

  • There are about 200 ostrich farmers in South Africa
  • There are believed to be less than 150,000 ostriches left in the wild
  • Ostriches often graze next to herds of zebras, helping to raise the alarm if predators are near.
  • It would take about 90 minutes to hard boil an ostrich egg
  • Ostrich eggs have been etched on by artists for centuries.

Mating Habits

Female ostriches are known as hens, while males are known as cocks or roosters. A flock of ostriches is referred to as a herd. According to the San Diego Zoo, flocks can have up to 100 individuals, but typically have only ten. There is a dominant male and a dominant female in the group, as well as several additional females. During mating season, lone males arrive and go.

Males flaunt their plumage by bowing and flapping their wings outward to attract a female’s attention. The male’s beak and shins will glow brilliant crimson when he is ready to mate. His neck will occasionally turn a scarlet tint to match. When females are ready to mate, they change color as well. According to the American Ostrich Association, their feathers will develop a silvery color.

Eggs and Babies of Ostrich

Ostrich eggs have a diameter of 6 inches (15 cm) and can weigh up to 3 pounds (1.3 kg). The eggs are laid in a communal nest known as a dump nest, which can contain up to 60 eggs at once. Males and females both wait on the eggs until they hatch, which can take anywhere from 42 to 46 days.

Ostriches lay their Eggs in Collective Nests of up to 25
Ostriches lay their Eggs in Collective Nests of up to 25

The progeny of an ostrich are larger than those of any other bird. Chicks can grow to be as big as hens when they are born. According to the San Diego Zoo, men and females share the job of caring for the young. During an attack, the male tries to distract the predator from the chicks by luring it away from the mother.

By six months, a chick is nearly full-grown, and by three or four years, it has reached maturity. Ostriches have a lifespan of 50 to 75 years.

Interesting Facts About The Ostrich

The ability of an ostrich’s small legs to maintain their huge bodies upright may appear miraculous. Their legs are precisely aligned, balancing the body’s center of gravity on top of its legs. Their powerful legs allow them to move quickly and easily.

According to the American Ostrich Association, they can run at speeds of up to 40 mph (64.3 km/h) for extended periods of time.

Ostriches use their feet to battle. They kick forward because that is the direction in which their legs flex. Because ostrich feathers hang loosely and do not link together like feathers on other birds, they appear scruffy.

Ostrich Conservation

Least concern by the IUCN
Least concern by the IUCN

The IUCN red list claims the population status of the common ostrich (Struthio camelus) is of least concern. However, the red list goes on to mention populations are decreasing.

Extant residents live in large swathes of Sub Sahara Africa and exist in severla protected areas such as Kruger National park.

Somali Ostrich

IUCN
IUCN Vulnerable

The Red list claims populations of the Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes) are as vulnerable, limited to areas of Somalia and Kenya.

Threats include increasing ranching and farming. There is no action recovery plan.

Q & A About Ostriches

Is it possible to be killed by an ostrich?

An ostrich’s muscular, lengthy legs can cover 10 to 16 feet in a single stride. These legs can also be used as a powerful weapon. Kicks from an ostrich can kill a human or a prospective predator such as a lion.

Can I eat ostrich eggs?

Yes you can fry and eat ostrich eggs. They are protein rich (176g per egg).

Is it true that ostriches are friendly?

Ostriches are peaceful creatures, and if you harm them, they will run around for 2 seconds before burying their heads in the sand.

How many eggs do ostriches incubate?

One ostrich can incubate about 25 eggs.

Why are ostriches hunted?

Ostriches are hunted for their feathers and sometimes meat.

References

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