Things you need to know about Ostrich, the largest bird

By Esther Muhozi
On 7 September 2023 at 12:04

Ostriches are large flightless birds that are mostly native to Africa. They have long necks and legs and can run up 70 km/h and their long legs can cover up to 16 ft in just a single stride.

In the vast tapestry of the animal kingdom, few creatures boast the unique blend of features that define the ostrich. This magnificent flightless bird, the largest on Earth, has captured the imagination of humans for millennia with its extraordinary characteristics and behaviors. From its sprinting prowess to its enigmatic mating rituals, and even its peculiar choice of attire, the Ostrich is a captivating marvel of nature.

One of the most astonishing traits of the Ostrich is its remarkable speed. These birds are the Usain Bolts of the avian world, sprinting at astonishing speeds of over 70 kilometers per hour.

Imagine a creature with the size of a small car racing across the savannah at such a breakneck pace. A single stride can cover up to 5 meters, thanks to their unique two-toed feet that resemble hooves. Their rapid legs, however, are not just for running; they can also serve as formidable weapons against potential threats.

Ostriches are not just showstoppers when it comes to their physical attributes and behaviors; they also lay claim to the title of having the largest bird eggs globally. These colossal eggs measure 15 centimeters long and can weigh as much as two dozen chicken eggs, despite being the smallest relative to the adult bird’s size. The dominant female incubates the eggs during the day, while the male takes the night shift. Their distinct coloring helps them evade potential threats and predators during incubation.

Ostriches in Human Culture ,fascination with ostriches extends deep into human history. These incredible birds have inspired cultures and civilizations for over 5,000 years, with mentions in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Today, in some African countries, people race on the backs of Ostriches, showcasing the unique bond between humans and these magnificent creatures.

Ostriches have the fastest land speed of any bird.The strength of these birds has enabled it to be part of things that bring joy to human beings as it attracts a lot of tourism and is used for racing
Ostrich Racing is a sport where people race each other on the backs of ostriches. They can also be ridden similarly as horses with wagons, special saddles, reins and bits. This contest is said to be harder to manage than horses.

While the ostrich may not be known for its aerial abilities, its wings serve a multitude of purposes. These large wings, with a wingspan of approximately 2 meters, are used in various aspects of their lives. They come into play during mesmerizing mating displays, as shade for their chicks, for heat conservation, and even as "rudders" to help them navigate while running at astonishing speeds.

Ostrich Racing is common in South Africa and in the United States particularly in Chandler, Arizona. In Jacksonville, Florida, an ostrich farm was opened as a tourist attraction in 1892 and became one of the most visited and known attractions in the state. Ostrich racing also takes place in Virginia City in Nevada, Fairgrounds in New Orleans, Canterbury Park in Minnesota, Ellis Park in Kentucky and Prairie Meadows in Iowa.

Before the race starts, ostrich jockeys stretch and examine the birds in their pens which is similar to a horse race pen. Jockeys only wear helmets as their protective gear. It’s not uncommon for some of the riders to topple to the ground together with their wagon or if the bird gets too uncomfortable that it tries to wiggle its way out of the jockey’s grip.

Ostriches are not just fast; they are also experts in the art of romance which is named Dance of Love. Their mating ritual is a complex and mesmerizing affair. The male Ostrich, or cock, entices a mate with alternating wing beats. Once paired, they embark on a synchronized dance. The cock flaps its wings, pokes the ground with its bill, and spirals its head in excitement. The hen, in response, runs circles around him, ultimately leading to the moment of copulation. This intricate dance is a testament to nature’s artistry.

And when it comes to its Survival Myths and Realities Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand when danger approaches. This myth likely stems from their defensive strategy of lying low and pressing their long necks to the ground, blending seamlessly with their sandy surroundings. It’s a testament to their ability to adapt to their environment and remain elusive.

Sadly, the wild ostrich population has seen a drastic decline in the last two centuries. Most of these captivating birds now find refuge in game parks or on farms, where they are sometimes raised for their decorative feathers, meat, and leather products. Conservation efforts are crucial to ensure their survival in the wild.