Ostrich (family Struthionidae) are the largest living bird in the world. They are flightless, and instead are built for running. They can do a short burst sprint up to 43 miles per hour and can maintain a speed of 31 miles per hour. Their wings help them maintain balance when running, but are mainly used for communication and courtship. Baby chicks also can shelter from sun and rain under an adult’s wings.
Ostriches eat plants, insects like locusts, and small animals such as lizards. When an ostrich eats, food collects in their crop, which is at the top of the throat, until there is a big enough lump to slide down the neck. Lacking teeth, they swallow pebbles that help grind the swallowed foodstuff in the gizzard. Ostriches can go without water for a long time, however, they like water and enjoy bathing.
Male ostrich are mostly black with some white accents, while females and immature males are grayish-brown and white. In the past ostrich were hunted for their feathers, and in the 18th century, were almost hunted to extinction. Now ostrich can be farmed for their feathers. The feathers are collected during the molting season and the birds are released unharmed.
Sometimes when a pair of ostrich with young meet other ostrich with young, the parents fight and the winner takes all the offspring!
Ostrich are nomadic, wandering in search of food Ostrich are native to Africa. There are two basic types of ostrich: pink-necked, pink-legged birds and bluish-necked, bluish-legged birds. Their Swahili name is Mbuni.
In ancient Egypt, Queen Arsinoe rode an Ostrich with a saddle. The Ostrich became the emblem of Themei, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Justice.
Fun Ostrich Facts
- Ostrich production in the US is second only to South Africa. They are raised for meat, leather, feathers and eggs, which are often used for art.
- Ostrich do NOT bury their heads in the sand. It only appears so because when they can’t run from danger, they flop to the ground and lay still. The color of their head blends in with the sand.
- Ostrich only have two toes—all other birds have three or four toes.
- An ostrich egg can weigh about 3 pounds. That’s equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs.
- An ostrich’s eye is almost two inches across—the largest of any land animal. It has 3 sets of eyelids.
American Ostrich Association
The Big Zoo
San Diego Zoo