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The flightless ostrich is the world’s largest bird. Ostriches grow large enough that they only need to fear the largest African predators, like lions and leopards. Lacking teeth, ostriches swallow pebbles to grind their food and an adult ostrich carries about 1kg of stones at any one time. Ostriches are the fast runners of any birds or other two-legged animal and can sprint at over 70 km/hour, covering up to 5m in a single stride. Ostriches’ running is aided by having just two toes on each foot (most birds have four), with the large nail on the larger, inner toe resembling a hoof and the wings reach a span of about 2metres. When threatened, the ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground or run if concerned although their powerful, long legs can be formidable weapons, capable of killing a human or a potential predator like a lion with a forward kick. However, the common ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its feathers, which are decorative and are also used as feather dusters. Its skin is used for leather products and its meat is marketed commercially, with its leanness a common marketing point.

Appearance

The feathers of adult males are mostly black, with white primaries and a white tail. However, the tail of one subspecies is buff. The long neck and legs keep their head up to 2.8 m (9 ft) above the ground, and their eyes are said to be the largest of any land vertebrate helping them to see predators at a great distance. However, the head and bill are relatively small for the birds’ huge size. Their skin varies in color depending on the subspecies, with some having light or dark gray skin and others having pinkish or even reddish skin. The strong legs of the common ostrich are unfeathered and show bare skin with the tarsus (the lowest upright part of the leg) being covered in scales: red in the male, black in the female.

Diet

 Ostrich is one of the world’s largest omnivores, consuming both plants and animals and also some of the invertebrates though and they lack teeth they mainly feed on seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers. Occasionally, they also eat insects such as locusts.  Therefore they swallow pebbles that act as gastroliths to grind their food in the gizzard and an adult ostrich carries about 1kg of stones in its stomach. Ostriches that live in captivity such as zoos have very different food sources than their wild counterparts. The zookeepers make it easy enough. Ostriches that live in captivity often consume diets full of components such as alfalfa, hay, commercial pellets, grains and fresh vegetables.

Breeding

Ostriches have wings that reach a span of about 2metres used in mating displays, to shade chicks, to cover the naked skin of the upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, and as “rudders” to help them change direction while running. Ostriches perform a complex mating ritual consisting of the cock alternating wing beats until he attracts a mate, after they will go to the mating area and he will drive away all intruders. They graze until their behavior is synchronized, then the feeding becomes secondary and the process takes on a ritualistic appearance. The cock will then excitedly flap alternate wings again, and starts poking on the ground with his bill. He will then violently flap his wings to symbolically clear out a nest in the dirt. Then, while the hen runs circle around him with lowered wings, he will wind his head in a spiral motion. She will drop to the ground and he will mount for copulation. All of the herd’s hens place their eggs in the dominant hen’s 3m-wide nest, though her own are given the prominent centre place, each female can determine her own eggs amongst others.

Behavior

Ostriches spin in circles when they are happy as a way of expressing their emotions. It is also a form of play as they will often make themselves extremely dizzy before walking funny to clear their heads. Ostriches normally spend the winter months in pairs or alone and  during breeding season and sometimes during extreme rainless periods, they live in nomadic ‘herds’ of five to 50 birds led by a top hen, that often travel together with other grazing animals, such as zebras or antelopes. Territorial fights between males for a harem of two to seven females usually last just minutes, but they can easily cause death through slamming their heads into opponents.

Habitat

The towering birds live in sandy and arid habitats, particularly in open country. Common environments for these birds include savannas, woodlands, desert, plains, semi-desert, dry grasslands and scrubs. Today common ostriches prefer open land and are native to the savannas and Sahel of Africa both north and south of the equatorial forest zone. In southwest Africa they inhabit the semi-desert or true desert.

Do Ostrich have 3 stomachs and WHY?

The answer is “YES” Just unlike all other living birds, Ostriches have three (3) stomachs because they need to metabolize the tough plant matter that they eat, which they can’t do in just a single stomach. Ostriches can go without drinking for several days, using metabolic water and moisture in ingested roots, seeds and insects, but they enjoy liquid water and frequently take baths where it is available.

Where they are found

Ostrich in Uganda can only be found in Kidepo valley national park in north eastern part of the country and at the Uganda wildlife Education Centre. Ostriches are apparently endemic to Africa living in Savannah semi-arid areas.

 

 

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