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Saturday, 3 October 2009

The World´s Largest Bird

The Ostrich is the world´s largest species of bird, and can only be found in parts of Africa. These enormous birds are unable to fly, however, for defense they rely mainly on speed – they have the ability to run at maximum speeds of approximately 72km/h. They possess a formidable kick which is powerful and can easily break a human leg. When in danger, ostriches will run away, kick or try to conceal by flopping flat against the ground. Though an ostrich has many strange habits, burying its head in the sand is not one of them. This myth probably arose from its practice; when sometimes lowering its head towards the ground in reaction to danger, or when using its beak to dig shallow nests in the sand and move its eggs around.

An ostrich lives for about 40 years. A well built male will reach a height between 1.8 and 2.8 meters and weighs as much as 155 kilograms. Though generally docile, the male is temperamental during breeding season. When agitated it typically uses hisses and other sounds such as roaring noises rather like a lion, displays its feathers, dances and bows before the hens. Pairs of birds often remain together for life. Hens lay clutches of about 20 eggs in most cases in hollows scooped out of the ground and the chicks hatch after about 35 to 45 days. The survival rate is low for the eggs, due to predators such as hyenas, jackals, wildcats and vultures. The eggs are incubated by the females during the day and by the males at night. The coloration of the two sexes are used to escape the detection of the nest, the grayish-brown female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night. Parents are very protective; the male usually defends the hatchlings and teaches them to feed. Ostriches become sexually mature when they are about 2 to 4 years old.

Many years ago ostriches were hunted and farmed for their feathers which were just as alluring as diamonds and gold at that time. Feathers were popular for decoration in high fashionable clothing just before the World War I, to the fine ladies of London, Paris and New York. After the World War I, things were never the same again for the barons.

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