winter CLOSURE

The Réserve Zoologique de la Haute-Touche (Haute-Touche Animal Reserve) will reopen on April 3, 2021.

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Autruches © G.Martin

Ostrich

A tiny head peaking at two metres high, a huge body carried by two muscular legs with two digits and relatively small wings... the ostrich, Struthio camelus, is the largest of the birds, unable to fly but excellent at running.

Profile

Class, order & family :

Sauropsida, Struthioniformes, Struthionidae

Order :

Struthioniformes

Genus :

Struthio

Species :

camelus

Lifespan :

30 to 40 years

Height and weight :

2.75 m max; 150 kg at the most

Incubation :

42 days, up to 60 eggs per nest (8 to 10 eggs per female)

Natural habitat :

savannahs, desert or semi-desert areas

Diet :

seeds, roots, leaves, insects, etc.

Native region :

Africa

IUCN status: 

LC least concern

Way of life

When the breeding season begins, the male, who is polygamous, gathers his females and many exuberant parades follow: wings outstretched, feathers erect, kneeling and grand neck movements... The females then lay around ten eggs in the same nest, which has been prepared by the male. Recognising the eggs that she has laid and placed at the centre, the “favourite” makes sure to reject some of the eggs from the nest that do not belong to her as she cannot brood on more than 25. In an effort to camouflage the eggs from predators, the male, with his black plumage, sits on them at night while the grey female takes over during the day. After hatching, the ostrich chicks gather into a crèche and, led by an adult male, they travel long distances in search of food.

Distinguishing features

The adult ostrich has few enemies. Its strengths: a top speed of 70 km/h, a powerful kick, long and sharp claw, its large size and excellent vision for spotting approaching predators. Only the eggs and young are vulnerable; they are preyed on by hyenas, lions, jackals and wild dogs. Although they are fiercely defended by their parents, only 10% of young ostriches escape predation. The wings, which are not big enough for the ostrich to fly with, serve as a tiller, brake or parasol to protect against the scorching sun.

Anecdote

Head in the sand in case of danger? This common misconception comes from their habit of putting their head down to the ground in the event of a sandstorm in order to protect themselves or to avoid detection by predators when they are brooding.

Since the end of the 19th century, the ostrich has been bred for its hide, its decorative feathers, eggs and its meat, which is lower fat and higher protein than beef.

While an ostrich egg (1.5 kg!) could contain around twenty chicken eggs, 150 of them could fit into an Aepyornis egg, weighing 10 kg. This Malagasy “elephant bird”, extinct for at least 5 centuries, was, weighing in at 400 kg, the largest bird to have ever lived on Earth.

Autruche mâle © MNHN - P. Roux
Autruchon © MNHN - P. Roux
Autruches © G.Martin