Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is undoubtedly the largest bird on the planet. Ostriches can grow to a height of 2.7 meters and can easily weigh in the region of 156 kilograms. They have no plumage over their heads, and extremely long necks. The male Ostrich is covered in thick, soft black feathers over his body and wings, with white plumage at the tips of his wings and tail. The female is similar in appearance, with gray and brown coloring. Ostriches also have the biggest eyes of any bird species, and the eyeball measures 5 centimeters. These beautiful flightless birds used to naturally roam Asia and Africa, but as the human knows no limits where there is profit to be made, these birds were hunted to near extinction for their feathers. Today they are still found in the wild, but are limited to southern Africa and central Africa. Many countries have started farming with these flightless birds, causing them to be introduced to various areas. The decrease in the demand for ostrich feathers has insured the survival of the population. Ostriches are now farmed not only for their feathers but also for meat and eggs.
Ostriches live off fruit, nuts, seeds, lizards, succulents and shrubs. To adapt to the dry, desert regions, they are able to get water through the plants. Stones are often eaten to assist with food digestion. As the Ostrich is not capable of flying, they are capable of running speeds of up to 70 kilometers an hour, and their powerful legs can fatally injure predators. Even though Ostriches are not dependant on water, they enjoy taking a bath or refreshing splash when they are able to. In the wild, the Ostriches tend to move together with the antelope and other grazing animals. They themselves are usually in flocks of up to 50 birds, but will tend to break into smaller groups during the breeding season, which is approximately five months.
Once the smaller breeding groups have been established, a hole is dug into the ground that serves as a communal nest. Between 15 to 60 eggs are laid in the nest that are approximately 18 centimeters in length, 11 centimeters in width and can weigh about 1400 grams. These shiny, creamy white eggs can stand the weight of a human. The incubation period is close to 40 days, and the females take turns during the day, and the males at night, to incubate the eggs. If an Ostrich feels threatened while on the nest, they will stretch their necks out along the ground to avoid detection, and do not stick their heads into the ground as many believe. The town of Oudtshoorn, in South Africa, is the largest Ostrich farming community in the world. At present there are approximately 900,000 domesticated Ostriches in this region. Here, you are able to visit the farms, be educated on these amazing birds, see the various product ranges and even ride one, if you are brave enough!