Jan 9, 2011

Ostriches Don’t Hide Their Heads in the Sand

Ostriches Don’t Hide Their Heads in the Sand

Today I found out that Ostriches don’t hide their heads in the sand, contrary to popular belief.
When an Ostrich feels genuinely threatened, it will actually take off running.  Considering it is the fastest animal on two legs, it can pretty much out run most other animals.  In fact, Ostriches have been clocked as high as 45 miles per hour when being chased by a close predator.  Just as impressive, Ostriches have been shown to be capable of a sustained run of around 30 miles per hour for an extended period.  So they can pretty much outrun the vast majority of predators out there, with a few exceptions.  And in the few cases they can’t manage to outrun those hunting them, Ostriches can be absolutely deadly with their powerful kicks combined with a large claw on each hoof like foot.  Ostriches can easily kill humans with a kick and have been observed to even be able to kill full grown lions if the lion doesn’t get them first. :-)
The Ostrich also has extremely good eye sight and hearing.  Because of this, they are generally able to perceive predators before the predator sees them.  So what they will do when they observe a predator is lie down on the ground and put their body as close to the ground as possible and wait.  Often, given they tend to live in very hot savannas in Africa, the heat haze, combined with how low they are to the ground, will make them appear just a mound of dirt in the distance to predators.  If this fails to work and the predator approaches, the Ostrich will stand up and take off running.
The myth that they stick their heads in the sand primarily comes from this first line of defense where they lie down; from a distance, when an ostrich lies down, it appears as if its head disappears in the sand, even though it is really just lying down to see if the predator will pass by so that it won’t have to expend the energy of trying to outrun it.
Bonus Factoids:
  • The Ostrich is the world’s largest bird, weighing as much as 350 pounds.
  • Ostriches in the African Savannah and desert lands get most of their water from the plants they eat.
  • Ostriches use their wings to help them maneuver when they are running at high speeds.
  • A full grown Ostrich’s legs can cover 10 to 16 feet in a single stride
  • Ostriches typically live in small herds, with one alpha male and alpha female, along with other females and occasionally lesser males.  All of the group’s hens put their eggs in the alpha female’s nest, but with the dominant hen’s eggs given better position.
  • Ostriches prefer to eat plants and roots, but given their harsh natural habitat, will also occasionally eat insects, lizards, or any other creature it can find.  They also will occasionally eat sand, which helps them digest the food they eat.
  • Ostriches will generally live 30 or 40 years in the wild, growing up to 9 feet tall and weighing 220 to 350 pounds.
  • Ostriches have the largest eye of any land animal, measuring in at around 2 inches.
  • The male ostrich is capable of making a “roaring” noise not too dissimilar from a lions roar, but tending to add a hiss with it.



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