The ostrich (also referred to as the common ostrich or ostrich) is a bird that’s endemic to specific vast areas in Africa. Its scientific name is Struthio camelus.
It is one of the species of the large flightless birds and one of the two extant species of Ostriches. It happens to be the only surviving member of the Struthio genus.
The other species is the Somali ostrich, scientifically named Struthio Molybdophanes. It is regarded as a distinctive ostrich species.
The common ostrich belongs to the Struthioniformes order which has previously contained birds such as cassowaries, kiwis, emus, and rheas. Currently, the ostriches are the only members of this order.
It is regarded as the fastest bird on land with the ability to clock speeds up to 55 kilometers per hour on long distances.
For sprints, it can clock 70 kilometers per hour. It is also regarded as the largest living bird in the world and has the largest egg size. When it comes to birds’ history, only two birds (now extinct) laid larger eggs.
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The common ostriches typically weigh within a range of 63-145kg. This is about the size of two fully grown humans.
They are hefty birds, and their weight varies across subspecies such as the Masai ostriches of East Africa and the North ostriches. There are extraordinary weight cases where a male ostrich weighs as much as 158kg.
The male ostriches’ height usually clocks a range within 6ft. (11 inches – 9ft. 2 inches). The females are shorter with a height range of 5ft. 7 inches – 6ft. 7 inches. Their young ones have a fawn complexion with dark spots.
Young ostriches usually weigh about 45kg at one year of age. They also have a very long lifespan that’s unusual of birds of their kind. Their life expectancy ranges between 40-45 years.
The matured male ostrich have mostly black feathers with some touches of white and a whitetail. The females and young males have greyish-brown and white feathers.
Both genders have almost bare necks and heads with just a very thin layer of feathers. The females’ neck and thighs pigmentation are pinkish-grey while it’s either grey or pink for the males.
The ostrich possesses powerful legs, and they are typically bare with no feather at all. The lowest part of their legs is heavily scaled.
It measures up to 21 inches in length. Each of their feet is two-toed. The outer toe has no nail, while the more prominent, inner toe has a nail resembling a hoof.
Their feathers do not have the tiny hooks that hold together the smooth exterior feathers of flight birds. Theirs are fluffy and tender, and they serve as insulation for the birds.
This means they can survive a broad range of temperatures. A part of their temperature control hinges on their behavioural thermoregulation.
They make use of their wings to blanket the bare skin of their flanks and upper legs. Doing this helps them preserve heat or stay warm.
They could also leave those areas bare to release heat from within. Their wings also act as stabilizers that enable them to manoeuvre better when in motion.
Studies have shown that the wings are an essential tool in their swift halting, turning and zigzag moves. They have feathers numbering up to 60 in the tail region while their wings have feathers in 3 categories. They have about 16 primary wing feathers, four alular feathers and about 23 secondary feathers.
Unlike other birds, the ostrich releases urine separately from faeces. Other birds have both waste products stored in their coprodeum, but the ostrich has its faeces in its terminal rectum. They possess unique pubic bones that are joined to hold their gut.
Another structural design that distinguishes them from other birds is the copulatory organ of the males. Theirs is retractable and up to 20 centimetres long. They also have different palates from their relatives.
Unlike other ratites, their sphenoid and palatial bones are not connected.
Common ostriches have a preference for open lands and savannas. They can be found in the Sahel of Africa, in both the northern and southern region of the equatorial forest zone. They can also be found in deserts or semi-deserts.
Another well-known habitat of the ostriches are islands on the Dahlan archipelago in the Red Sea near Eritrea.
The ostrich’s primary diet is made up of seeds, grass, fruits, shrubs and flowers. They can also feed on insects. They can survive for several days without drinking water.
This is possible because they use metabolic water from the plants they eat. They can also survive a 25% loss of their body weight caused by dehydration.
The males are referred to as the cocks while the females are called hens. They attain sexual maturity between 2-4 years old.
The females mature sexually six months earlier than their male counterparts. They are capable of reproducing multiple times before their death. Their breeding season usually begins in March/April and ends shortly before September.
The mating process varies across multiple geographical locations. The cocks are very territorial, and they can spar for territories which usually has a harem of two to seven hens.
The victorious cock then gets the chance to copulate with multiple females. Despite the seeming polygamy, the cock can only form a pair bond with a “major” hen.
The cock uses his wings to perform alternate wing beats to draw the attention of a hen. They go to the breeding area, and the cock drives away other ostriches there to give them privacy.
They graze till their behaviour syncs in unison and the process becomes more ritualistic.
The hen lays her eggs in one communal nest that could be as deep as 60 centimetres. The dominant hen lays her eggs first and discards the extra eggs from weaker hens before incubation. The eggs can be about twenty, and the dominant hen can distinguish her eggs from other hens.
The ostrich’s egg is up to 20 times heavier than a chicken’s egg. The females incubate during the day and the male during the night. Their young ones are referred to as chicks or hatchling.
Their population in wildlife has greatly declined over the last two centuries. Most survivors are either in-game reserves or ostrich farms. The Struthio camelus has numerically reduced to the point that it is treated as a “Critically Endangered” species.