Mature before its time, Struthionidae

Ostriches are seen on all our riding safaris as the Namib desert is their most ideal habitat. Ostriches are the world’s largest flightless bird and males weigh in at an impressive 100 kg. Seldom preyed upon as those powerful legs have a nasty nail on one of its two toes used for defence and fighting and their huge hazel eyes – with enviably long lashes – relentlessly scan the horizon from a two-metre vantage point. When displaying reddened shins indicating breeding, males are best avoided as they can be very aggressive. Both males and females incubate egg clutches of up to 20 eggs laid by more than one female in a simply sandy scrape in the ground.

Chicks are precocial meaning “mature before its time” or “hatched in an advanced state and able to feed itself almost immediately”. They eat plant matter and while often ranging up to 18 km a day, are largely sedentary. Chicks are never left without vigilant adult supervision, often in a crèche of 30 – 40 individuals supervised by several adults both male and female. Flocks of up to 600 chicks of varying ages have been seen at waterholes in the Namib. The chicks have spiky, downy fluff and look a bit like hedgehogs with long legs

image right - like long-legged hedgehogs!

Males have distinct black and white plumage while the females are grey – their feathers used in very effective dusters in days before plastic overtook our lives. The male has an extraordinarily deep booming call which can, and is often, mistaken for a distant lion roaring. Disconcerting when camping out in the Namib without a tent!

Image left - very vigilant adults, perhaps alerted by the click of the camera trap. Image below - seems to be a disagreement among the adults.....

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