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All Creatures,

Episode 167: A Survivor, the Ostrich

June 16, 2020

We return to Africa this week to cover the iconic Ostrich. These are now the largest living birds in the world and some of the toughest. The Ostrich once roamed all the way to China and Mongolia, but now today is found in the wild on the African continent. An amazing bird with an amazing history.

Ostrich History

Ostrich belongs to the flightless birds, or the group called ratites. Besides the Ostrich, these include the Kiwi, Rhea, Cassowary and Emu.

Our episode on the Kiwi can be found HERE

Our episode on the Cassowary can be found HERE

The ratites are believed to have evolved from flying birds. Once the dinosaurs died off, with a lack of mega predators, it is believed the ratites lost the need to fly. The earliest fossils from the Ostrich date back 25 million years ago and originated in Africa. By 13 million years ago, ancestors to the ostrich spread throughout Africa, Europe and Asia. After the end of the last Ice Age, the Ostrich went extinct in East Asia.

Today there are two species of Ostrich. The Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus) has 4 subspecies:

  • North African Ostrich (S. c. camelus)
  • South African Ostrich (S. c. australis)
  • Masai Ostrich (S. c. massaicus)
  • Arabian Ostrich (S. c. syriacus)- now extinct

The other species is the Somali Ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes)

Ostrich Physiology

Ostrich on average live 30 to 40 years. There are reports of them living up to nearly 70 years.

Ostrich have evolved to live in the harsh hot climates. They can survive long periods without water and usually get their moisture from the plants they eat. With regards to nutrition, Ostrich are omnivores. Their diet consists mainly of roots, leaves, and seeds, but ostriches will eat whatever is available. Sometimes they consume insects, snakes, lizards, and rodents. They also will eat pebbles or stones, which help grind food in their gizzards.

All of the mega predators will prey on Ostrich. Lions, hyenas, cheetah, leopards, painted dogs, all will prey on Ostrich. In defense the Ostrich can run up to 70 kph (31 mph) in a sprint. They can sustain a speed of 50 kph (31 mph) over longer distances. The Ostrich can also kick out with their feet and 4 inch (10 cm) long talon, which can harm any predator.

Ostrich Conservation

The Common Ostrich is listed as Least Concern but populations are decreasing.

The Somali Ostrich is listed as Vulnerable and its populations are also decreasing.

Study on Ecotourism and visitors impression on nature can be found HERE

Study on impacts of Ecotourism on local beliefs and impressions can be found HERE

Organization

Nikela

African Volunteer Animal Programs

 

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