Species Survival Plan
Open semi-arid plains and woodlands
Chicks - Egyptian vulture, hyena and jackal
Roots, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, locusts, insects, lizards and small tortoises
Originally Native To
72 - 96 inches tall
Very long bare neck and legs; the only bird with two toes; males are black with white wings and tail feathers, females are brown with “dirty” white wings and tail feathers
42 - 48 days
6 - 8 eggs
April - October
Captivity 20 - 70 years
Flocks of 5 - 50 birds
The ostrich is the world’s largest living bird. Its weight, small wings and weak wing muscles combine to make it flightless. Ostriches use their wings mainly for communication, elaborate courtship displays, and to help them turn or brake when running.
An ostrich can maintain a speed of 30 mph for 30 minutes and can attain a top speed of 43 mph. Their strides can reach 16 feet in length. At just one month old, an ostrich chick can already run nearly 35 mph.
Ostriches sometimes join groups of antelope, zebras, and wildebeest. With the mammals’ sense of smell and the birds’ elevated eyes and excellent vision, these groups are often successful at detecting predators. The ostrich has the largest eye of any land animal; it only blinks once per minute.
When cornered, the ostrich can deliver a very powerful kick that can disembowel a lion, considering each two-toed foot has a long, sharp claw.
Ostriches breed in the spring and are polygamous. Mating takes place after an elaborate courtship display. The male makes the nest – a scrape in the sand about three feet across and one foot deep.
The “major hen” lays an egg in the nest first, followed by any “minor hens.” They each lay up to 12 eggs over a three-week period. A hen can lay about 70 eggs each year.
Each egg weighs up to three pounds and has a thick ivory-colored shell. The egg is the equivalent of about 24 chicken eggs. Many animals and humans eat the eggs, and the native African people use the shells for holding water.
The male, which is black in color, sits on the nest at night. Only the major hen sits on the nest during the day when her grayish-brown coloration provides better camouflage.
They turn the eggs regularly and somehow manage to keep the major hen’s eggs in the middle of the nest where they have the best chance for survival. Incubation takes 42-48 days.
A baby ostrich is well-developed and active as soon as it is hatched. It is about the size of a domestic hen. The male and major hen share the responsibility of raising and protecting the chicks.
Loud booming calls can be heard from the males when displaying or at night when a predator is near. Some farmers use ostriches as guard animals instead of dogs.
Ostriches are omnivores. Ostriches typically eat plants, roots, and seeds but will also eat insects, lizards, snakes, or rodents available in their sometimes harsh habitat. When an ostrich eats, food is collected in the crop at the top of the throat until there is a large enough lump to slide down the throat.
Ostriches eat things that other animals can’t digest. They have tough intestines that are 46 feet long - if you stretched them out - in order to absorb as many nutrients as possible. These big birds also swallow sand, pebbles, and small stones that help grind up food in the gizzard.
When roaming the African savanna, they get most of their water from the plants they eat. Besides being able to go without drinking water for long periods of time, they can also tolerate high temperatures. They will drink if they come to a watering hole.
Unlike most birds’ feathers, ostrich feathers are loose, soft, and smooth. They don’t hook together the way feathers of other birds do, giving ostriches a "shaggy" look. The feathers can also get soaked in the rain, because ostriches do not have the special gland many birds have to waterproof their feathers while preening. Adult male ostriches have striking black-and-white plumage; immature birds and adult females have grayish brown feathers.
They live in small herds that typically contain less than a dozen birds. Fossil Rim only has female ostriches. They live in the Front Pasture - the first pasture you enter.
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