The Ostrich
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Among birds, the ostrich is a record-breaker. It is the tallest and the heaviest of all birds. An
ostrich stands up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall. That's more than three feet (one meter) taller
than the average man. And this bird can weigh as much as 350 pounds (159 kilograms).

  • One ostrich egg is about as big as 24 chicken eggs.
  • While the huge ostrich is a bird—with wings and feathers—it does not fly.   Instead it
    runs.
  • It has long, strong legs. One stride can cover up to 16 feet (4.9 meters)—about the
    length of a mid-size family car! The bird is speedy, too. It can run just over 40 miles (64
    kilometers) an hour for a short distance, and can keep up a speed of more than 30
    miles (48 kilometers) an hour over longer distances.
  • The ostrich uses its short wings for balance, holding them outstretched when it runs.
    On each foot, it has two toes and a four-inch-long (10-centimeter-long) claw, which
    help give it traction as it speeds along.
  • Strong legs don't only carry an ostrich where it wants to go. They can also be used for
    self-defense. If an ostrich is cornered and can't run from danger, it will kick with a
    force mighty enough to kill a lion.
  • When danger approaches, an ostrich will often lie low to hide, stretching its neck
    along the ground. Its feather colors blend with the sandy soil where it lives.
  • From far away, the position the ostrich takes can look as though the bird has buried
    its head in the sand. Many people thought that was what ostriches did when they
    were trying to hide, but that is not true. This myth began because of an optical illusion.
  • Ostriches are mainly vegetarian, eating roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds. But they will
    also eat insects, lizards, and other small creatures.
  • Ostriches generally live in the vicinity of grazing animals such as wildebeest,
    antelopes, and zebras. It's a good partnership: The grazers stir up insects and rodents
    for the ostriches to eat, and the ostriches help alert the grazers to dangers such as
    approaching lions.
  • An ostrich group, called a herd, generally numbers about 12 individuals. Male
    ostriches compete with one another for control of a group of several females. A herd
    has a dominant male—the one who successfully fends off challengers—and a
    dominant female. She mates only with him, though he may mate with other females
    as well.
  • All the egg-laying females, called hens, lay their eggs in the nest of the dominant
    female. Then that female—whose eggs are positioned in the center of the nest, the
    most well-protected spot—and her mate take care of all the eggs in that one nest.
  • A communal nest may have from 15 to 60 eggs in it, and each egg can be up to 6
    inches (15 centimeters) long and weigh 3 pounds (1.5 kilograms).Eggs hatch after
    about 40 days of incubation.
  • The ostrich chicks hatch feathered and ready to walk around. They leave the nest
    within days to follow their parents, who protect them from the hot sun or rain by
    keeping them huddled under their body or outstretched wings.
  • By the time the young ostriches are 18 months old, they are fully grown and have
    become record-breaking birds like their parents.   Text by Catherine D. Hughes
Conservation Status : Conservation Dependent
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