Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ostrich (Africa Series)

Not all birds can fly.  The Ostrich is one bird that never leaves the ground, but he sure can run. Towering nine feet tall over the sparse, open savanna, the Ostrich has an advantage when it comes to avoiding predators. He’s tall and he’s a sprinter.

He can reach 43 MPH at top speed, so, avoiding a fight is the Ostrich’s preferred defense.

Although quick to flee, he is not defenseless. With powerful legs, he can stop a lion with a hard forward kick when running away is not an option.  

That same swift kick could kill a man, but such encounters are rare.

African Dog

African Dogs and Spotted Hyenas hunt as packs, so they're able to overwhelm this largest of birds

A Cheetah can outrun an Ostrich, so it poses a major threat, too.

An Ostrich herd, lead by one male, may number a dozen birds.  He mates with the dominant hen and occasionally with subordinates.

Subordinate hens also lay eggs, but all their eggs are moved into the alpha female’s nest where she and the male take turns incubating them.

They are big, heavy birds. An adult male could weigh 250 pounds…female 220.
One Ostrich egg weighs the equivalent  of two-dozen chicken eggs.  

The myth that Ostriches hide their head in the sand when frightened probably originated from observing the Ostrich sitting on a nest, not wanting to be discovered. 

Likely witnessed in the daytime and from a distance, the smallish head of the Ostrich would appear to be buried in the sand when, in fact, it was just avoiding detection.   

The female Ostrich is sand-colored.  Sitting on the nest in the daytime she blends well into the sunlit grassland.

Conversely, the male Ostrich is black and becomes nearly invisible at night when it’s his turn to incubate the eggs.  

Although not able to fly, Ostrich wings are not useless.  In a race for his life the Ostrich uses his wings rudder-like to stabilize himself at high speed. 

During courtship, the male will alternately flap his wings to impress the female and violently flap both wings at once to symbolically clear out a nest in the soil. If she is sufficiently impressed, the pair could incubate up to 20 eggs.


With a high predation rate, only a few chicks will make it through the first year. The wild population has dramatically reduced in the last 200 years.With a top lifespan in captivity of 62 years, 7 months, they are maintaining a viable population. Nature preserves and farms are stabilizing their numbers for now.