The Ostrich (Struthio camelus) is a member of the Ratite family, like the Kiwi, Emu, Cassowary, Rhea and the Moa, they are all flightless birds.
- The ostrich is the largest living bird on earth. An adult may stand 2 metres tall and weigh between 100-150kgs.
- Ostriches are native to northern, eastern & southern Africa. In ancient Egypt, China & Greece people used ostrich eggshells as drinking cups and storage containers. During the Middle Ages, knights wore ostrich plumes in their armour, and at the beginning of the 1900’s, ostrich feathers were fashionable in ladies’ hats.
- Ostriches are highly adaptable to varied climates, they are now farmed worldwide.
- There are three main varieties, the “Red ”, Blue” and “Black ” or domesticated Cape feather bird which the “Australian Grey” derived from.
- Ostriches were farmed for feathers here in New Zealand 80 years ago, when ostrich feathers were a fashion statement.
- They graze on grass and other vegetation and are fed a pellet containing the vitamins and minerals they require.
- Ostriches are the only bird in the world with two toes. This is used as a defence, it kicks its powerful leg forward and down using its sharp nail to slash its enemy.
- Ostriches can run faster than any other two-legged animal and can accelerate to 40mph in less than 2 seconds. They can reach speeds of up to 60kmph.
- The ostrich’s eyes are 5cm in diameter and are larger than any other bird or land animal. Each eye has a upper lid lined with long lashes that help protect it from the dust and dirt. They also have a nictitating membrane (a flap of skin) that acts like a second eyelid, closes upward and protects the eye while allowing the ostrich to see.
- Ostriches have no teeth, so they swallow their food whole and consume pebbles or small stones to grind their food into digestible pieces.
- Male ostriches reach maturity between 2-3 years. He calls out with a loud booming roar to attract the hens attention. He will chase his hen/hens and perform a mating dance (cantle) - he drops to his knees and weaves his body back & forth while fully extending his wings. His red beak is a sign of his testosterone level, the redder he becomes the more aggressive and protective he becomes!
- The ostrich egg is creamy/white in colour and weigh between 1.2 - 2kgs and is the biggest egg in the world. The heaviest egg we have had laid weighed 2.46kg!! Each egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs. Annual egg production from a pair of breeding ostriches is usually 20 - 40 eggs.
- The breeders can be paired, run in trios or in a colony situation with 10 males and 20 hens.
- The breeding season begins in August/September and finishes in February/March. A hen in full lay can lay an egg every second afternoon.
- The eggs are incubated for 42 days at approx. 36 deg. Incubators today are fully automated with temperature control and egg turning devices.
- Natural incubation is a team effort, the hen/hens will sit on the cluster of eggs (approx 17-20 eggs) during the day and the male will sit during the night.
- Newborn chicks are about 25 centimetres tall and weigh about 1 kilogram. They can grow 7cm in one week and can put up to 0.5kg in weight a day. They are fully grown & can weigh 100kgs at 1 year old.
- Chicks absorb their yolk sac within the first 3-5 days. A newly hatched chick instinctively knows how to peck for food. They will then eat grass and a formulated pellet. Chicks must be kept warm and dry until they are approx. 3 -4 months old. Their mottled brown feathers and stripy necks helps them blend into their natural environment.
- A ostrich chick will change feather colours at approx 10 months old. The males will grow black feathers and the females will stay grey.
- When ostriches are in high spirits, they will spin in circles on tippee-toe, sometimes spinning so fast they get dizzy and fall over!
- Ostrich feathers are anti-static and have been used in the form of a feather duster for 150 years. There were high in fashion in the early 1900s and the ancient Egyptians used the ostrich’s wing feather (plume) as a symbol of truth and justice. Today, ostrich feathers are used for numerous reasons - costumes, dusters, floral decoration, feather pens and much more.
- Ostrich leather is unique with its feather quill pattern. This gives it extra strength and durability which is 7 times stronger than cow hide. This makes it the “Rolls Royce” in all leather. Ostrich leather is used to produce handbags, wallets, shoes, clothing etc.
- Ostrich meat is a red meat that is low in fat and cholesterol. It is a versatile meat that can be made into salami, sausages and burger patties.
- Ostrich oil, comes from the fat of the older birds. Once the fat is rendered down to a base oil product, it has natural healing qualities that will heal most skin problems. The ancient Egyptian Queen, Nerfertiti, favoured cosmetics made from ostrich oil because of the oils moisturising and emollient properties and because it kept her looking youthful.
- An ostrich weighing 100kg live weight will yield approximately 30 - 35 kilograms of low fat meat, approximately 1.2 square metres of leather and 1 - 2 kgs of feathers.
- Ratites are the oldest kind of bird alive today. Fossils show that ancestors of ratites lived 65 million years ago.