Ostrich

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Struthio camelus

DIETOmnivorous: seeds, plants, roots, eggs, lizards, and frogs

RANGEAcross central and southern Africa including Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.

HABITATFound in semi-arid woodlands, grasslands, and plains.

Ostrich

About: Ostrich are the largest of all birds, and are flightless with long legs and a long neck that protrudes from a round body. Adult male ostriches have striking black and white plumage and orange or pink colored beaks and legs. Adult females and immature birds have grayish brown feathers. Male ostrich stand anywhere from 7 to 9 feet tall and can weight more than 300 pounds, while females reach approximately 6 feet tall and weigh up to 220 pounds.

 

Too heavy to fly, ostrich are excellent runners and can reach speeds of 43 miles per hour. While running, their wings act as “rudders” to change direction or a “parachute” to slow down. Ostriches have strong powerful, long legs that can cover 10 to 16 feet in a single stride or deliver a powerful kick if a predator gets to close.

 

Contrary to the popular myth, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. When an ostrich senses danger and cannot run away, it flops to the ground and remains still, with its head and neck flat on the ground in front of it. Because the head and neck are lightly colored, they blend in with the color of the soil.

 

Life Cycle/ Social Structure:

Ostriches live in small groups that usually contain less than a dozen birds. Each herd is guarded by an alpha male. The alpha male will mate with the alpha female and some of the lesser hens. Outside males will mate with other lesser hens in the herd. All of the females will place their eggs in the dominate hen’s nest. The dominant male and female will then take turns incubating the giant nest.

 

Newly hatched chicks are about the size of a barnyard chicken and will grow at a rate of approximately one foot per month. A few days after the chicks hatch, they leave the nest under the protection of the parents. In the event that two separate groups of ostriches meet, they may challenge each other to a chase with the winning pair taking all of the chicks with them. These nurseries can potentially end up with 300 chicks with only a few adults to tend to them.

 

Predators: Lions, painted dogs. Eggs are susceptible to hyenas, jackals, and Egyptian vultures, which breaks open the thick-walled eggs by dropping rocks on them!