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Ostriches

Updated on February 26, 2016

Genus Struthio

Description

When we think of the Ostrich we automatically think about a very large bird. They can range in color from light tan to a very dark black or blue. Many of the females are a dark brown color. Their coloring depends on location as it helps them to blend into their surroundings.

The size of the Ostrich is what is very interesting. This particular bird may be up to 9 feet tall by the time it finishes growing. Depending on the diet and the location they may have an overall weight of 350. They can move very quickly though and it may blow you away to realize they are the fastest animal that moves on two legs.

Anatomy

The Ostrich can run very quickly and can cover about 30 minutes of running before they tire at a speed of about 20 miles per hour. They can actually run up to 40 miles per hour but they can only do so for very short periods of time. They will get hot by moving so fast and then they will use their wings and panting to help them cool down.

They are able to get away from predators due to that speed. They will also be able to do so based on their senses. They can hear what is going on around them, they can smell for long distances, and they have great vision that is further enhanced by being able to see so far above the ground.

Their legs have two toes that help them to balance. When they run the wings are out to help them remain well balanced too. They have a claw on each foot that allows them to dig in the sand, to have a form of protection, and to hold onto things.

Like other species of birds they have a beak that is sharp at the end. It helps them to get their food that they will swallow in one piece. They have a complex digestive system so it can take about 36 hours for their food to be completely broken down and used by the body after they eat it. They have two stomachs that the food has to pass though before it gets to the small intestine.

Ostrich Fast

Evolution

Based on the various fossil remains that have been located, it is believed that the Ostrich has been around for about 120 million years. Yet we have very little information about what changes they have gone through over time. What is very interesting is that there are only three species. Most types of living creatures that have been around for millions of years have branched in so many directions that there are tons of species and sub species identified.

Behavior

The behaviors of the Ostrich can vary based on the time of the year. In the winter they are usually living alone or they have one partner. In the warmer times of the year though they live in herds. They can have as many as 50 members or as few as 5. They have a system of hierarchy that helps them to keep order.

There is a male and female that are dominant and all others are below them. The basis for the hierarchy has to do with overall strength and health. So an Ostrich can move up and down the ranks depending on what else is in their group. They may have conflicts with each other too. However, the larger numbers allow them to be able to be safer from predators too.

Habitat and Distribution

The diverse living conditions for the Ostrich are part of why it has been able to survive for over 120 million years. It may surprise you to learn that many of them live in cooler regions. We often think of this bird only living in the very hot desert areas. They do thrive there the most but they can really live anywhere that offers them food and shelter.

They do very well in captivity to at various farms around the world. Due to the low cost of raising them and the value for what they offer they continue to be cropping up out there. Right now there are Ostrich farms in over 50 countries around the world.

Diet and Feeding Habits

In captivity the foods that are fed to the Ostrich include various types of grains. They often include supplements on them that help them to grow faster and leaner. The idea is to get the Ostrich to the shape where they can be harvested for meat, feathers, or hides to make a profit quickly.

In the wild the diet is very different for the Ostrich. They may consume insects and rodents and that is surprising to many people. They are often thought of to be only herbivores that eat flowers, plants, and leaves. While that is a considerable part of their diet it isn’t all that they will consume.

Ostrich Facts on Video!

Reproduction

The males do all they can to get the attention of the females. They may call out or run around dancing with their feathers spread out. There is a dominant male that controls who is going to be mating. He will mate with many of the females in the herd including the dominant female.

The process of creating a nest is a group effort for the females. The dominant female decides where it will be. She will be the first to put her eggs into it – in the middle where they can be the safest. Other females can deposit their eggs based on space and hierarchy. Up to 20 can usually fit into one nest.

The young will start to come out of the eggs in about 40 days. They are vulnerable at that point due to the hot sun. They have some feathers but they are very thin so for protection they stay under the feet of the adults. This offers them shade until their feathers are thick and full in a few weeks.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Ostrich Egg / Photo Taken by HTO
Ostrich Egg / Photo Taken by HTO
Ostrich Egg / Photo Taken by HTO

Predators

Even thought there are plenty of predators out there the Ostrich isn’t at risk of its future. The eggs are well protected but they can still be taken by birds and humans. There are plenty of eggs too that don’t get into the nest that can be cast aside and then taken by such predators.

Wild dogs and wild cats are the big predators in the wild that take on an Ostrich of any size. They will wait and blend in well and then pounce out of nowhere. They look for one that is small or weak that gets some distance from the rest of the herd. During the times of the year when they live alone it is even easier to get them. However, these predators are well aware of the dangers.

They know that the Ostrich is very fast and they don’t want to waste energy to chase too far after one. They also don’t want to risk getting kicked by one due to the force of those powerful legs. Humans sometimes kill the Ostrich in captivity so that they can consume the meat. There are several villagers in Africa where that is one of the primary sources of food that they use for their survival.

Comments

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  • aviannovice profile image

    Deb Hirt 

    6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    Voted up and across the board. I don't think Alvin was a good spokesperson for these ostriches, as they didn't seem to like him.

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