Fun Facts About Ostriches
Chad Cocking | Wildlife
These prehistoric animals are incredibly interesting and unique. We come across them fairly often in the Timbavati and our fascination with their behaviour goes far beyond not being able to fly, given that they are the world’s largest bird. So, with this in mind we decided to share some riveting facts about the giant land bird we call the ostrich.
- Standing about 2.7m tall, this is by far the world’s largest bird. Unbelievably, they weigh up to 160kgs. This incredible bird has a long bare neck and legs with the bulk of its body covered in feathers. Females are brown and males are black and white. They have small heads with large brown eyes and lovely long eyelashes.
- The ostrich may not be able to fly, but definitely makes up for it when it comes to running. Using long legs, strong thighs and large feet they can reach speeds of up to 70km per hour, with each stride reaching almost five metres!
- Ostriches only have two toes. The outer toe is smaller and used for balance, whereas the large inner toe has a big sharp nail used for protection.
- These huge birds are mainly vegetarian, preferring roots, seeds, flowers and leaves to small insects and lizards, which they occasionally feed on too.
- Ostriches do not have any teeth! In fact, they swallow small stones that help crush their food in the gizzard.
- Interestingly, they can go without water for several days because they obtain enough metabolic liquid from the plants they eat. However, when they do find water, they will drink rather extensively, filling their gular pouch and then lifting their heads in order for the water to run down their throat.
- Ostriches live in family groups called herds, usually made up of 12 or so individuals. Males will fight each other viciously in order to become the leader of a herd. The lead male can then mate with all the hens in a herd, however there is one alpha female and she is only allowed to mate with the alpha male.
- During the breeding season the male ostrich performs the most extraordinary dance in order to attract the females. He then makes a large nest in the ground where the females lay their eggs.
- The alpha hen lays up to 11 eggs, while the other females only between two to six eggs. The alpha hen’s eggs get preference and will always be found surrounded by the other eggs within the nest. Both the alpha male and hen will take turns sitting on the eggs and looking after them.
- The eggs take up to 40 days to hatch and within a few days the chicks can walk and keep up with the adult birds. At 18 months the birds are fully grown and ready to start the life cycle all over again.