The ostrich, the biggest flightless bird


The ostrich has different characteristics that do not go unnoticed. It is the fastest land bird and is also the largest currently alive. But it is also part of the large family of unfit birds. Let’s discover together the physical specificities of the ostrich, its way of life and its mode of reproduction.

Ostrich: main characteristics

The Ostrich is a bird of the family of Struthionidae and belonging to the genre Sthrutio which today only counts two large species still alive: Struthio australis and Struthio camelus. The first is better known as the South African Ostrich and the second as the African Ostrich. Note that the Somali Ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes) or Red-necked ostrich is considered a subspecies of S. camelus.

In adulthood, the male measures 2.80 m in height and the female 2 m to 2.20 m for a respective weight of 150 and 90 kg on average.

The plumage of the ostrich is dull brown in the female and black in the male with white wing tips, a sexual dimorphism very apparent. Feathers are scarce on the neck, which can be simply covered with a light down or completely bare. It is the same for the head of this great bird. Its wings are small, and its head is out of proportion to its body. She is indeed surprisingly small, flanked by two huge eyes. It is also said that the brain of an ostrich is “smaller than its eyes”.

Thelife expectancy of an ostrich varies considerably. She is 40 years old in captivity, but in the wild, as long as all of her living conditions are met, this huge bird can reach the age of 70 except that very few other birds make it to the adulthood.

Ostrich egg, impressive measurements

The ostrich egg is the larger cell of the animal kingdom (implied concerning animals currently living), with a width of at least 14 cm and a height which may exceed 18 cm, for an average weight of 1.5 kg. Some weigh more than 1.8 kg and harbor a yolk of more than 250 g!

Ostrich, a bird unfit for flight but which runs very fast

The ostrich is a flightless bird, but this is compensated by extremely powerful paws which allow it to run very quickly since it can reach 40 km / h, maintain this speed for a good thirty minutes, but in addition make peaks of 90 km / h. By comparison, the lioness, well known for her peaks of 70 to 80 km / h, can only run as fast for a very short duration of only a few minutes due to her low endurance.

The ostrich’s racing abilities are therefore quite exceptional and it owes both this speed and its great endurance to the musculature of its two very slender legs whose extremely flexible knees are very flexible. All these attributes allow in addition to this immense runner bird to perform prodigious leaps 4 m long and 1.50 m high. Its inability to fly is therefore compensated by its ability to run faster than many mammals. When running, the ostrich, which has only two fingers at each end of its legs, rests only on the finger that is more developed of the two, that is to say the one that is located inward.

Ostrich: food

This runner bird is a herbivorous which therefore feeds on young shoots, grass, fruits and seeds. But the ostrich also eats worms, locusts, lizards, grasshoppers, and even small mammals. In fact, her observation shows that she is capable of swallowing whatever she finds. Food is first of all stored in its long esophagus, a sort of large dilated pocket in which food amalgamates in the form of a large ball before reaching the stomach. He must of course eat pebbles which are, in turn, stored in his gizzard.

Of strong constitution, this bird can however just be satisfied with grass for a long enough time without suffering from it, which allows it to live in a semi-desert environment where the conditions are however difficult.

As soon as they are adults, outside the breeding season, these birds live in small groups, each numbering only eight individuals at most. These groups are relatively nomadic but readily adopt a sedentary lifestyle if they find an environment well endowed with food. Regardless of whether to eat and quench thirst, an ostrich can travel very long distances without getting exhausted.

Ostrich: reproduction

The male is polygamous and has a penis, which is relatively uncommon in birds. During the mating season, each leaves his group and each male chooses between three and five females in order to have his own harem. It finds a territory where it makes a nest in a cavity. He can defend this area with a lot of virulence.

It is with the dominant female that he then mates first. The female lays her eggs, and it is only after the other females come to add theirs to the nest and then leave them entirely to the charge of the dominant pair for brooding. This can sometimes represent a good twenty eggs, but the hatching is especially guaranteed for those which were laid by the dominant female.

The female incubates during the day and the male relays her during the night in order to allow his beautiful to feed. After 45 days of incubation, this is the outbreak. The autruchons are then taken care of by the other individuals of the harem.

There is a high death rate in ostrich, since 85% of them do not reach the age of 1 year, devoured by their predators, in this case jackal, hyena, wild dog, but also raptors of all kinds, some snakes …

Like many animals, the ostrich is today threatened, victim of hunting, the destruction of its habitat … and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified this bird on the list of endangered species. Its international trade is prohibited and the species is protected. However, we can still observe ostriches in our many animal parks and zoos where they breed, which proves that they are well cared for.

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