The ostrich is the largest living bird in the world and capable of traveling of speeds over forty miles per hour. Learn about this unique bird here.
The Ostrich is a unique bird with features and a history that make it unlike any other animal in the world. Fossil ostriches as old as five million years have been found in Southern Russia, India and portions of China. To date, it is the oldest living bird in America with most theorizing that it descended directly from the dinosaur.
Today, the common ostrich makes its home in the dry savannas of Africa and parts of southwest Asia. The ostrich has adapted well to desert life, and can survive for long periods of time without the need for water. In fact, most of the water that the ostrich consumes comes from green plants and shrubs and not from a direct water source.
Holding the distinction of the largest bird in the world, the adult male ostrich can grow as tall as eight feet, with the female standing just a few inches shorter. Ostriches get most of their height from their enormous neck, which accounts for almost half of their body length and weight. Adult males commonly weigh between 300-345 pounds. The male ostrich is mostly black in color with white plumes on their wings and tail. By contrast, the female can be identified by their all brown feathered body which is dotted with red and blue hues around the neck region. Not only is the ostrich the largest living bird in the world, but they also have the biggest eyeballs of any species of bird, measuring a full two inches across. The ostrich has a proportionally small head in relation to their body size, and a wide bill, both of which allow this self-reliant bird to hunt and gather food efficiently.
Perhaps the most interesting of all features is the ostrich's inability to fly. A close relative of the Emu and Rhea, the ostrich relies solely on their naked, muscular thighs and legs to travel. They are completely unable to fly. The ostrich's feet are made of two unique toes: one that resembles a claw and the other which appears almost hoof-like. Both enable the ostrich to defend itself against predators and deliver powerful, deadly kicks. Due to their natural musculature, the ostrich can achieve speeds of over 40 miles per hour.
The ostrich stays in flocks of five to fifty and generally lives in the company of much larger, grazing animals. The male ostrich emits a distinctive roar and hiss during breeding season, and will go to great lengths to fight for the female of his choice. Ostriches are also excellent caretakers, with the mother and father sharing responsibility for guarding of eggs. Most often, the female ostrich will sit on the egg (which can be as big as six inches in length and weigh as much as three pounds) during the day, with the father taking his turn during the evening hours. Ostriches tend to stay in herds during breeding season, and develop an almost communal-like atmosphere, where it is common to see a large pile of ostrich eggs being guarded by multiple sets of parents.
The ostrich diet consists mainly of plants. At times, however, the ostrich can gain nutrients from other available food sources such as insects, fruits, seeds, nuts and small desert animals like the lizard.
Today, ostriches live in the deserts of Africa and roam in herds. Ostriches are also raised commercially in several countries for skins, their meat and feathers, which are often made into dusters, boas, ostrich leather and food. The lifespan of the ostrich is forty years in captivity.