Safari 101

Animal Facts: The Ostrich

May 24th, 2019 | James Handley

The bizarre ostrich must surely hold the record for number of oddities. If you simply thought it was the largest & fastest, read on to be amazed!

Ostriches are large, flightless birds that have long legs and a long neck that protrudes from a round body.

Male ostriches have bold black-and-white colouring that they use to attract females. Females, on the other hand, are light brown. They are the world’s largest bird growing up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall and weighing up to 150 kilograms!

The ostrich is the only bird in the world with a didactyl foot (has two toes on each foot). All other birds have three or four toes.

Ostriches have three stomachs, and unlike all other living birds, the ostrich secrets urine separately from faeces. They also lack teeth, they have to swallow pebbles to grind their food internally. An adult ostrich typically carries about 1kg of stones in its stomach.

Ostriches are omnivores, which means they eat both vegetation and meat. Although they prefer plants — especially roots, seeds and leaves — they also eat locusts, lizards, snakes etc.

Ostriches can go without drinking for several days, using metabolic water and moisture in ingested roots, seeds and insects, but they enjoy liquid water and frequently take baths where it is available.

The ostrich can sprint at over 70 km/hr, making it the fastest animal on two legs. The ostrich is also an endurance runner and can ‘jog’ at 30 mph (48 km/h) for as long as half an hour.

At about the same size as a billiard ball, an ostrich’s eyes are bigger than its brain. It has the biggest eyes of any land animal.

The ostrich lays the largest egg on the planet. Their eggs are around 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter and can weigh up to 1.3 kg. Eggs are laid in a communal nest called a dump nest, which can hold up to 40 eggs at one time. Males, as well as females, sit on the eggs until they hatch, which can take 42 to 46 days.

Ostrich offspring are larger than any other bird baby. At birth, chicks can be as big as chickens. The males and females share the responsibility of taking care of the young,

By six months, a chick is almost at its full-grown height; at 3 or 4 years, it will reach maturity. An ostrich can live 50 to 75 years.

Ostriches fight with their feet. They kick forward because that’s the direction in which their legs bend. A connecting kick can kill a lion. They also have a sharp nail on their feet that can inflict a savage wound.

Ostrich feathers look shaggy because they hang loosely and don’t hook together like feathers on other types of birds. They act as “rudders” to help them change direction while running.

The courtship ritual of ostrich is truly bizarre. Males bow and flap their wings outward to display their plumage. When they are ready to mate, the male’s beak and shins will turn bright red. Sometimes, his neck will change to a red colour to match. You can watch the ritual here:

Finally, contrary to popular belief, ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand. The myth probably originates from the bird’s defensive behaviour of lying low at the approach of trouble and pressing their long necks to the ground in an attempt to become less visible. Their plumage blends well with sandy soil and disguises them well.

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Thanks for reading,

The Bonamy Travel team