3 Jul 2015

Ostrich Oddities and Fun Facts

Baby ostriches - photo by Mink
By Marie Powell

An ostrich is the largest bird alive today, with adults reaching sizes of over nine feet tall. Ostrich chicks are already a foot tall -- as tall as a school ruler -- when they hatch. A wild ostrich can only be found in Africa now, although they're raised on farms in North America and around the world.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to go ostrich-watching on a safari to Africa? The next best thing is an "armchair safari" though books and websites. I found out a lot about ostriches and their habits while researching my children's science book, Meet a Baby Ostrich (Lerner Group, 2015).

For example, an ostrich also lays the largest bird egg, averaging about seven inches long and 3.5 pounds in weight.

Ostrich head - photo by A. Kniesel
Their large eyes are amazing, with long lashes to protect their eyes. With their keen eyesight, they're favourites at the watering hole, often warning other animals if predators are near. These flightless birds have soft feathers on their backs but bristly feathers on their necks and heads -- and their legs are bare.

They're also omnivores, chowing down on seeds, shrubs, fruits, grass, insects, and even small lizards. Like most birds, they swallow pebbles to help them digest food. They can survive for several days without water.

Here are a few suggestions for more information:
  • Can You Tell an Ostrich from an Emu? by Buffy Silverman (Lerner 2012)
  • Ostrich: The World’s Biggest Bird by Natalie Lunis (Bearport 2007)
  • Baby Birds by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree 2008)
  • National Geographic: Ostriches  
  • American Ostrich Association: Facts
  • Check out Margriet Ruur's safari to Africa in Elephants for Lunch
  • Also check out other African-related publications and websites on our Sci/Why post, "Who Wants to be a Scientist?"
Meet a Baby Ostrich by Marie Powell
Available from Lerner Group, 2015

Marie Powell is the author of more than 30 children's books, including Dragonflies are Amazing (Scholastic Canada, 2007) and Meet a Baby Ostrich (Lerner Group, 2015).