The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird, weighing as much as 400 pounds (181 kilograms) and growing up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall. As it can’t fly. it’s built to run. Its long, thick, and powerful legs can cover great distances without much effort, and its feet have only two toes for greater speed.
Ostriches can sprint in short bursts up to 43 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour), and they can maintain a speed of 30 mph (48 kph) for long periods of time, helping them escape nearly any predator. An ostrich’s kick is powerful enough to kill a lion.
Their diet is mostly plants, leaves, seeds and roots, but they’ll also eat insects and small animals like lizards.
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When courting the black-and-white male uses his striking coloring to attract a hen. He slowly sinks to the ground, almost like he’s bowing, then begins to wave and shake his wing feathers while moving his tail up and down. Then he approaches the female, holding his wings out and stomping to impress her. If she enjoys the show, she’ll mate with him.
Ostriches lay the biggest egg in the world, weighing 3 pounds (1.3 kilograms) and measuring 6 inches (15 centimeters) in diameter. One ostrich egg is the equivalent of two-dozen chicken eggs.Male and female ostriches share the job of incubating eggs and caring for their chicks. Each female lays two to five eggs. The eggs hatch after about 40 days. A few days later the chicks leave the nest, really just a big scratch in the dirt, and travel with their parents. An adult ostrich will then take a chick under its wing — literally — to shelter it from sun, rain and predators.
Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. If a predator threatens its nest, an ostrich will flop to the ground and remain still, laying its head against the sand to try to blend in with it. Only its body is visible, so from a distance, it looks like the ostrich has buried its head in the sand.
Until the mid-1900s, wild ostriches lived in Africa, southwestern Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Currently wild ostriches are only found in desert regions in Africa. In the 18th century, ostrich feathers were so popular in ladies’ fashion that the ostrich disappeared from all of North Africa. If not for ostrich farming, which began in 1838, the ostrich would probably be extinct.
Ostriches usually live for 30 to 40 years, and some live for more than 50 years.