Ostrich

The Ostrich is the largest living bird on earth

South Africa BirdlifeThe Ostrich {Struthio Camelus}

The ostrich is a large, flightless bird - the largest living bird on earth. When fully grown it can reach a height of 1.6 metres and weighs over 130 kilograms.

The male ostrich has soft black feathers on its back with white primary feathers on its wings and tail, making him easy to spot. Females and young ostriches have brown feathers instead of black to camouflage them. Both males and females have bare necks and thighs. This skin is blue or pink in males and pinkish grey in females.

Ostrich have long necks, small heads, large eyes, long, powerful legs, and two toes on each foot.

Ostriches have great vision and because of their strong legs can run at 70 km per hour.

Quick Facts

Size

Height: They can reach a height of 1.6 m.
Weight: 135 kgs.

Habitat

Low rainfall areas.

Distribution

Natural distribution is in the drier regions of Africa, including southern Africa, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. In South Africa, you will see plenty of Ostriches in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape. Oudtshoorn is home to the world's largest ostrich population and a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms.

Diet

Shoots, leaves, flowers and seeds make up most of their diet but they will also eat insects, lizards and other creatures available in their often harsh habitat.

Socialisation

Ostriches are not very social birds. They live in small herds that typically contain less than a dozen birds. Alpha males maintain these herds and mate with the group's lead hen.

Reproduction

Ostriches nest in the dry season. The male will make several shallow scrapes in his territory. The lead female then lays up to 12 eggs over the next 3 weeks. Other females may lay eggs in this same nest, but only the male and lead female will guard and incubate the eggs. The incubation period is six weeks.

Despite the constant watch of the male and female, less than 10 percent of the eggs will hatch. Those that do are fully developed when hatched. Hatchlings are fawn in colour with dark brown spots and a 'cape' of down on the back. By the time they are a year old ostriches will reach their full height.

Incubation

Incubation takes 6 weeks.

Life Expectancy

Ostriches can live to be 30 to 40 years old.

Predators

Ostrich chicks have many predators including vulture, hyena and jackal. Only 15 percent of chicks make it to their first birthday, despite having protection from their parents.

References

National Geographic; Biodiversity Explorer.

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