A flightless bird may sound like an oxymoron, but the ostrich – the world’s largest and heaviest bird – was designed to stay on the ground.
An ostrich can grow up to 9 feet tall and weigh up to 320 pounds, making its lack of flight capabilities more obvious. Unlike most birds, the ostrich has a flat breastbone that does not provide enough pectoral muscles needed for flight. The lack of muscles, tiny wings and considerable weight force ostriches to stay on the ground. However, what they lack in flight, they make up for in speed. The ostrich is the fastest animal on two legs and can run at speeds of 45 mph (72 km/h), with some even topping out at 60 mph (96.6 km/h)!
The distinctions awarded to the ostrich do not stop there. These animals have the largest eyes of all living land animals! Their eyes measure 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) in diameter and take up so much space in the skull that they are larger than their brains. These large eyes allow them to see up to 3.5 km across meadows and bushes. Ostrich eggs are also the largest of any living bird and are typically 15 cm (about 6 inches) long. Eggs can weigh up to 1.5 kilograms, or about the weight of 2 dozen chicken eggs!
Ostriches are native to around 25 African countries and reside in warm savannahs and forests. Although they once roamed throughout Asia, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, they are now primarily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa due to overhunting. These animals are omnivorous – eating both plants and meat – but feed mainly on grasses, shrubs, berries, seeds and roots. The vegetation they consume is their primary source of water, but they will drink water if they encounter a water source.
There are many places to see an ostrich on an African safari. In Tanzania, the Masai ostrich, also known as the East African ostrich, is the most common. This species of ostrich has a red neck that distinguishes it from grassy plains. Be sure to bring your camera on your safari adventure – you won’t want to miss capturing one of the most unique birds in the world!