The ostrich is the tallest and the heaviest of all birds. While the huge ostrich is a bird, it does not fly. Instead it runs.
In one stride, an ostrich 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.
Formerly occupied Africa north and south of the Sahara, east Africa, Africa south of the rainforest belt, and much of Asia minor. Now lives in East Africa and south of the Sahara.
Ostriches are found in the savannas and deserts in areas with short grass, which provides food and lets them see long distances
Ostrich are very large birds with long necks and legs but relatively small heads. Male ostrich are larger than females and characterized by primarily black with white plumage on their tails and wings. They have a bald crown, ringed with short, stiff, brown feathers. Their beak is yellow above and pink to red below.
Female ostrich are smaller and grayish-brown with light colored feather edges. Their necks are pale pink in color to grayish brown.
Since they don’t fly, ostriches have lost the stiff, strong wing and tail feathers that flying birds require. Instead, ostrich feathers are loose and soft. To protect themselves, ostrich have four-inch claws on a cloven foot and can kick hard enough to kill a lion.
Ostriches live in a mixed society of flocks, individuals and families. These groups may range in size from five to fifty or more and peacefully co-exist; however, they stay in their individual flocks. They are often accompanied by zebras or antelopes, which kick up insects and rodents for the birds. In return, the ostriches, with their keen hearing, eyesight, and great height are able to warn other animals of danger.
Ostrich do not hide their heads in the sand to avoid danger. However, to escape danger, they will attempt to look like a rock by flattening its head and neck onto the ground. This may give the appearance from a distance that the head is buried because only the body is visible.
When feeding, ostrich most commonly travel at speeds of 2.5 miles per hour but can sprint at speeds of up 45 miles per hour if alarmed. If cornered, they will kick their predator to defend themselves.
The ostrich has quite an extensive vocal repertoire, using a variety of whistles, snorts and guttural noises to communicate, as well as other sounds such as bill-snapping. The male also produces a loud “booming” call, which sounds rather like the roar of a lion and is produced during display, or at night when a predator is near.
Three of the animals that commonly inhabit the savannah are eland, zebra and ostrich. Zebra and eland eat the grasses and shrubby plants. Ostriches eat the seeds of the plants and the insects and small invertebrates stirred up by the herding animals. To help digest food, ostriches swallow small stones and sand. Like all birds, they have no teeth so they can’t chew their food. The stones and pebbles help to grind swallowed food in the gizzard.
Ostriches receive most of their moisture from the plants they eat. However they do enjoy a good bath and will drink and bathe whenever they get a chance!
Strong legs can also be used for self-defense. An ostrich will kick with a force mighty enough to kill a lion.