Ostrich

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Range
Formerly occupied Africa north and south of the Sahara, east Africa, Africa south of the rainforest belt, and much of Asia minor. Now lives in East Africa and south of the Sahara.

Habitat
Dry and sandy regions, generally in the open country

Distinguishing Characteristics
Very large, terrestrial birds (largest bird extant) with long necks and legs but small heads. They have wings but are flightless.

Males are larger than females, all have black and white feathers on the body. They have a bald crown, ringed with short, stiff, brown feathers. Bill is yellowish above, pink to red below.

Females are smaller and grayish-brown with pale feather edges. Neck is pale pinkish color to grayish-brown.

Dietary Classification
Diet in the Zoo: grain, hay, and alfalfa

Diet in the Wild: Mainly herbivorious, but also eats insects and some small vertibrates

Life Span
May live up to 50 years both in and out of the wild

Behavior/Adaptations
The population is a mixed society of flocks, families and individuals. In common grazing grounds, different flocks will peacefully co-exist but stay in their individual flocks. Families may often adopt chicks from another flock.

Normal walking speed is 2.5 mph, but they can reach speeds of 45 mph if alarmed. If cornered, they can kick their predator to defend themselves.

They love water and will take baths if given the opportunity. In order to escape detection, they may lie on the ground with their necks outstretched. They do not bury their head in the sand.

Three of the animals that commonly inhabit the savannah are eland, zebra and ostrich. Zebra and eland eat the grasses and shrubby plants. Ostriches eat the seeds of the plants and the insects and small invertebrates stirred up by the herding animals.

Together, these three animals comprise a "triple alliance" against predators: zebras have large, rounded ears that provide for excellent hearing, eland have a very acute sense of smell, and ostriches have legendary eyesight. Other mammals which inhabit the ecosystem include lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, rhinoceros, buffalo, wildebeest, gazelle and a number of other antelope species. Ostriches share the landscape with bustards, hornbills, ox-peckers and shrikes.

Status
Ostriches were nearly wiped out in the 18th century due to the demand for feathers. By the middle of the 19th century, ostrich farms began to spread, and the population is secure.