Aug 15, 2011

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the World’s Largest Bird

Photograph by A. KNIESEL


Who knew the Ostrich was such a notable record-holder in the Animal Kingdom? Not only is it the world’s largest bird; it also lays the largest eggs [of any bird] and is the fastest two-legged animal on land (sorry Usain Bolt)! Here are 10 things you might not have known about this fascinating bird. Behold! The Ostrich in all of its flightless glory!


Photograph by MATH KNIGHT


The Ostrich is the largest living species of bird in the world, typically weighing 140 – 290 lbs (63.5-131.5 kg) and measuring 6 – 9 ft (1.8-2.7 meters) in height.


Photograph by HANS HILLEWAERT / CC-BY-SA-3.0


Ostriches can run at maximum speeds of about 97.5 km/h (60.6 mph), making it both the fastest bird on land and the fastest two-legged animal in the world.


Photograph by ADAMANTIOS


Contrary to popular belief, Ostriches do not bury their heads in sand. This myth likely began with Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79), who wrote that Ostriches: “imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.”


Photograph by RAUL654


Ostrich eggs are the largest of all bird eggs (and by extension the yolk is the largest single cell), though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the adult bird. On average they are 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, 13 centimetres (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lb).


One scrambled ostrich egg equals about 25 chicken eggs | Photograph by HERZI PINKI


The Ostrich has just two toes on each foot (most birds have four), with the nail on the larger, inner toe resembling a hoof. The outer toe has no nail, and the reduced number of toes is an adaptation that appears to aid in running.


Photograph by JP BARRASS


Ostriches normally spend the winter months in pairs or alone. Only 16% of Ostrich sightings were of more than two birds. During breeding season and sometimes during extreme rainless periods Ostriches live in nomadic groups of five to 50 birds (led by a top hen) that often travel together with other grazing animals, such as zebras or antelopes.


Photograph by GRAVITYWAVE


Ostrich wings reach a span of about 2 metres (7 ft) and are used in mating displays and to shade chicks. They are however, unable to fly.


Photograph by REI


Ostriches mainly feed on seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers; occasionally they also eat insects such as locusts. Lacking teeth, they swallow pebbles that act as gastroliths to grind food in the gizzard. An adult Ostrich carries about 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of stones in its stomach.


Photograph by MIKEL HENDRIKS


Unlike all other living birds, the Ostrich secretes urine separately from faeces.


Photograph by MATH KNIGHT


The 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 it is claimed that Ostriches produce some of the strongest commercial leather. Its meat is marketed commercially with a taste similar to lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol and high in calcium, protein and iron.





Photograph by CHAI LADY




Photograph by TONY WILLS


Photograph by AMADA44






If you enjoyed this article, the Sifter highly recommends:

25 Remarkable Photographs of Gorillas





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