Ostriches are very large, flightless birds that originate in Africa.

The Ostrich: Struthio camelus

Appearance and Physiology
Grown ostriches stand taller than a man, and may reach a height of as much as 8 feet tall. Much of this is made up of their long unfeathered neck and legs. They may weigh up to 350 pounds.

The male ostrich has relatively bright black and white plumage when comparted to the dull brown female. Aside from these differences, both genders are very similar. The ostrich is the only living bird with just two toes, one of which is much more developed than the other to act as a base for running. An ostrich may be able to run at up to 40 miles per hour, easily outrunning most predators. Ostriches also possess enviable stamina. The strong legs are also capable of delivering a powerful kick, that has been known to kill.

Ostriches have very acute senses. They have both keen sight and sensitive smell. These, combined with the high vantage point of the head enable to ostrich to frequently detect predators before they can come close.

Habitat and Range
Ostriches reside in the Savannah of southern Africa, typically in bushy areas. They live amongst the hooved animals that eat many of the same things that they do.

Ostriches are primarily vegetarian, but also eat small animals such as lizards or insects. Ostriches are famed for their desire to eat brightly coloured or shiny objects.

Ostriches live in small herds naturally, but when farmed are kept in great numbers. Ostriches are farmed widely today, for their feathers, their meat and their skin. Ostrich meat doesn't taste very exotic or interesting unfortunately. In the 19th century, when ostrich feathers were in fashion in Europe and North America, ostriches were driven close to extinction by hunters with guns.

The character of ostriches has been likened to that of camels. They are stubborn, and likely to abuse humans who approach too close. True violence is only likely when an attack is planned. Unlike some animal ostriches do not defend their young with their lives, instead they leave them to fend for themselves in the event of an attack.

Courtship is mostly the realm of the male ostrich, who seeks to attract a female. To do this, the neck and legs of the male brighten as blood surges to the surface, the male flaps his wings, stamps his feet and sways his head. After mating has taken place the male scratches out a nest in the dust, in which the female will lay her eggs. Incubation takes 6 weeks, during which both the parents share the duty of keeping the eggs warm and protecting them. Each egg weighs as much as 3 pounds, and have very strong shells. Young ostriches are able to outrun a human within hours of their hatching.