It is scientifically known as Struthio camelus. It is the only living species of the family Struthionidae. The look of the bird is extremely distinct and it is characterized by presence of long legs and neck. The legs are adapted for running quickly with a rate of about 70 km/h which is the top speed adopted by any land dwelling bird. It’s the biggest bird living today and lays the largest sized egg. It feed on plant material in addition to on insects. It lives in nomadic groups which may contain 5-50 individuals. When threatened it lays flat on the ground or runs away. When molested it kicks the foe with the strong legs. The male makes a territory and often struggles for a harem of 5-7 females. They’re farmed throughout the world for their feathers that are used for decorative purposes and for the preparation of the feather dusters. The skin is used for the meat is marketed commercially.
The body may weigh about 63-130 kg with males weighing exceptionally much heavier about 155 kg. The feathers of adult males are black with white primaries and a white tail. The tail of one subspecies is buff coloured. Females and young males are grayish-white and brownish colored. The skin of neck and thigh in females is pinkish-grey while that of males is blue-gray depending upon the subspecies. The eyes are also the largest one of all of the land vertebrates measuring 50 mm in diameter and this is the reason that they can identify the predators from a good distance. Eyes are well protected from the sunlight. Colour of skin also changes among the subspecies. The tarsometatarsus of man has red horny plates while the female has black plates. Legs lack feathers while the tarsometatarsus is covered with scales. There are two toes on each foot and the bigger one bears a nail and the inner toe resembles the hoof. The outer fur lacks nail. The reduction in the number of toes is an adaptation for swift running. Ostriches can run continuously for 30 minutes with a rate of 72.4 km/h. The wing span is of about 2 meters and is used during courtship display and in protecting the girls. Feathers lack tiny hooks that lock the outside feathers in the flying birds and so are soft and fluffy and act as insulators. They’ve 50-60 tail feathers.
The sternum in these birds is flat and lacks keel that’s used for attaching the flight muscles at the flying birds. Like all ratites they lack harvest and gallbladder. They have three stomachs and the caecum is 71 cm long. Ostriches are known to keep the stool in the terminal anus. They are provided with unique pubic bones which provide support to the gut. Males are provided with a copulatory organ which is about 8 inches long. The plate differs from other birds as the sphenoid and the palatal aren’t connected with each other. At sexual maturity the men reach a height of 1.8-2.8 meters while the females are only 1.7-2 meters in height. During the first year of life girls grow at a rate of 25 cm per month. The average life span of these birds may be 40-45 decades. Females bear the potential to recognize their eggs from that of other females.
It’s thought that they first appeared in the Middle Eocene. They generally spend the winter months alone or in pairs. They’ve been found grazing together with the zebras and antelopes. They are most active in the early and late part of the day. The male territory covers an area of approximately 2-20 square kilometers. They feed on fruits, seeds, flowers, shrubs, and grass but can also prey on insects such as locusts occasionally. They lack teeth also swallow small pebbles which act as gastroliths helping to grind the food in the gizzard. An adult Ostrich is known to possess around 1 kg of stones in its gut. While feeding they are proven to fill their gullet with food that passes through the oesophagus in the kind of a food bolus. The bolus might be as much as 210 ml. After passing through the throat the food enters the gizzard in which it is grinded by the pebbles. They can live without water for many days and use the metabolic water. They love to enjoy the water tub when lots of water is available. They are able to tolerate wide ranges of temperature.
Ostriches become sexually mature at the age of 2-4 years. Females mature six months sooner than the men. They are iteroparous with the mating season starting in the month of March and end in September. The male typically hiss or produce other calls so as to demonstrate victory over a harem of 2-7 birds. The male is then allowed to breed with the females of this group but the pair bond will be formed only with the dominant female. The female beats her wings alternately in order to attract a male. They are oviparous birds and the female lays large eggs in a single communal nest which is 30-60 cm deep and 3 m wide. Nest is produced by the male. The eggs might be 15 cm long and 13 cm wide and weigh about 1.4 kg approximately 20 times heavier than the egg . The man teaches the chicks to feed but both genders may take part in this activity. The survival rate of the hatchlings is quite low and in an average only one chick of the nest reaches adulthood. They’re at a risk of being devoured by the hyenas, birds of prey like vultures and jackals.
Ostriches are hunted for their precious feather and skin. The Ostrich leather is the most powerful commercial leather known. The meat is similar in taste to that of the lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol content but is a great source of calcium, iron, wildlife trapping services and proteins. The population of the wild Ostriches has declined drastically in the past 200 years and their conservation status is of least concern.