Ostrich

Appearance

The ostrich is the world’s largest living bird. Both its weight, along with its small, weak wings, make it flightless. Instead, ostriches use their wings mainly for communication, elaborate courtship displays, and to help them turn or brake when running. Males have dark black feathers edged with white, while females are a dusty brown color. Both sexes have bare necks and legs.

Unlike most birds’ feathers, ostrich feathers are loose, soft, and smooth. Because they don’t hook together the way feathers of other birds do, ostriches have a trademark "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. 

Adaptations

Ostriches, despite not being able to fly, are incredible runners. An ostrich can maintain a speed of 30 mph for 30 minutes and can reach a top speed of 43 mph. At just a month old, ostrich chicks are already able to keep up with their parents. 

Ostriches are great at detecting predators thanks to their large eyes and limited need for blinking. In the wild, an ostrich will sometimes join a group of antelope or zebras. With the hoofstock’s sense of smell and the birds’ elevated eyes and excellent vision, these groups are better able to avoid becoming prey.

When cornered, the ostrich can deliver a very powerful kick that can severely wound and even kill large predators like lions. They also make loud booming noises to alert fellow animals when a predator is near. These qualities make them ideal body guards, and have led some farmers to using them to protect livestock. 

The Future of Farming

Believe it or not, there has been some push around the world, and even right here in Texas to use ostrich as a new livestock species. They can serve as a source of red meat, and their eggs are hearty enough to serve around 10 people. The feathers and hide of an ostrich can also be used when necessary. It should be noted, however, that although there are small pockets of ranchers interested in breeding ostriches for food, the majority of the industry believes there is a long way to go before they are a truly viable livestock option. The majority of the world’s ostriches are instead in zoological facilities or the wild. 

Where are they?

Ostriches live in the first pasture you enter.

VIEWING TIPS
The journey through Fossil Rim will bring you back through the first pasture to wrap up the trip. It is during that return trip through the pasture that you will most likely encounter the ostriches. If you have pellets, it is best to toss some on the ground before they approach or you risk a pecking.

Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Struthio camelus

Species Survival Plan

No

Habitat

Open semi-arid plains and woodlands

Predators

Chicks - Egyptian vulture, hyena and jackal

Food

Roots, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, locusts, insects, lizards and small tortoises

Originally Native To

Africa

Characteristics

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

Lifespan

Unknown in the wild,
Captivity 20 - 70 years

Social Behavior

Flocks of 5 - 50 birds

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