Animal stories: Ostrich
• Ostriches are one of the fastest creatures on earth: for short distances they are speedier than horses.
• Ostriches will eat almost anything shiny — they’ve been known to eat watches, bottle caps, glass, locks, bicycle valves, and even alarm clocks.
• The metal stays in their gizzards, and is used to grind and digest their real food.
• An ostrich’s egg is the biggest laid by a bird.
• A single ostrich egg is so big that it could feed eight to ten people.
• The shell is so strong it can support the weight of a 280-pound person.
• The male ostrich takes care of the chicks when they hatch.
Since ancient times, people have decorated themselves with ostrich plumes, concocted huge omelets from ostrich eggs, and made water bottles and dishes out of their eggshells.
More than 2,000 years ago, an Egyptian queen, Arsinoe, even rode an ostrich with a saddle. Ostriches can be tamed quite easily. Some South African ranchers have trained ostriches to act as shepherds for their flocks of sheep. Ostriches are not only fast runners, but they also tend to run around in circles. By running around the outside of the flock, they help to keep the sheep together. Ancient Egyptians used them to pull carts, but the ostriches tired out quickly, squatted down, and quit.
Ostriches often travel with herds of oryxes, other antelopes, and zebras. The tall ostrich keeps an eye out for trouble, while the grazing animals stir up insects, small reptiles, and rodents, which the ostrich likes to eat.
Few animals try to hunt an ostrich. For short distances they are speedier than horses, and when they need to, ostriches use the spurs on the ends of their wings to fight off enemies.
Anything shiny will do. Yes, folks ostriches will eat almost anything shiny.
Some have been known to eat watches, bottle caps, glass, locks, bicycle valves, and even alarm clocks. Some people think that ostriches can actually digest metal, but that’s not true. The metal stays in their gizzards, and is used to grind and digest their real food, which includes small reptiles and rodents.
The ostrich lays bigger eggs than any other bird in the world. A single ostrich egg is so big — six to eight inches in length, six inches in diameter, and weighing almost four pounds — that it could feed eight to ten people. The shell is so strong that it can support the weight of a 280-pound person. It is the male ostrich who takes care of the chicks when they hatch.
The ostrich is found only in Africa, although at one time it also lived on the deserts of Arabia. Many now live in forest preserves and other sanctuaries.
Ostriches reproduce faster than they are destroyed. This bird was in its greatest danger at the turn of the last century, when its plumes were in great demand to decorate women’s hats. Hundreds of tons of ostrich feathers were sold annually.
The species survived because ostrich farming became popular before this bird was hunted