Ostrich

Ostrich

Birds

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: ostrich
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Aves
ORDER: Struthioniformes
FAMILY: Struthionidae
GENUS SPECIES: Struthio (ostrich) camelus (camel-like)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Largest living bird
MALE Males are jet black with white plumage and bright red or blue skin
FEMALE Females are fairly uniform in color, with earthy gray-brown plumage and skin color
SIZE: Approximate height 2.75 m (9 ft.)
WEIGHT: Up to 156.5 kg (345 lb.)
DIET: Bulk of food is vegetation, fruit, seeds, leaves, shoots, shrubs, succulent plants; also invertebrates, occasionally lizards, and other small vertebrates. Stones are ingested to aid in digestion
INCUBATION: Approximately 40 days
SEXUAL MATURITY: 3-4 years
LIFE SPAN: Approximately 40 years in managed situations, unknown in the wild
RANGE: Common in the wild in East Africa
HABITAT: Open country, desert areas, and dry savannah
POPULATION: GLOBAL No data
STATUS: IUCN No data
CITES Specific populations are protected
USFWS Arabian and West African ostrich listed as Endangered

FUN FACTS

1. One ostrich egg equals up to 24 chicken eggs. And it takes approximately 2 hours to boil!
2. Ostriches can run up to 70 km/hr (40 mph) and can outpace most pursuers, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas.
3. It is the largest and heaviest living bird. It is unable to fly and does not possess a keeled sternum (breastbone) common to most birds.
4. Ostriches stretch out their neck and lay their head on the ground to keep from being seen, hence the myth that ostriches hide in the sand.
5. Ostriches are so powerful that a single kick at a predator, such as a lion, could be fatal.
6. A female ostrich shows a remarkable ability to recognize her own eggs even when mixed in with those of other females in their communal nest.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

Humans have had a close relationship with ostrich for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians farmed ostrich and present day farming, which began in 1833, is run much the same way. Ostrich feathers have been used for adornment by humans for at least 5000 years and the eggs are still used by Bushmen as jewelry and receptacles for carrying water. Extensive hunting for feathers, meat, and skin coupled with overgrazing by domestic animals on their habitat has lead to the near extinction of the ostrich from the Middle East and North and South Africa. Although they are not globally threatened, the 4 subspecies of ostrich require strict protection and farming has helped to conserve the wild populations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bertram, R.C.B. The Ostrich Communal Nesting System. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Grzimek, H.C. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol. 7. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1992.

Perrins, C.M. (ed.) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.