Of the 8,600 bird species which exist today, the ostrich is the largest. Ostriches are flightless but their wings are surprisingly strong and they are very fast runners. Natives of Africa, they have a lifespan of between 30 to 70 years.
The male’s body plumage is glossy black, and the wings and tail feathers are white. The females and young males are greyish brown. The ostrich is the only bird to have only two toes on each foot. During hot weather, ostriches lift and fan their wings, while during cold weather they cover their thighs with their wings.
These huge birds sometimes reach a height of 2.6 meters and a weight of 135 kg. During the first year of life, chicks grow about 25 cm (10 inches) per month. At one year, ostriches weigh around 45 kg (100 pounds).
The females lay their fertilized eggs in a single communal nest, a simple pit scraped in the ground. Ostrich eggs can weigh 1.3 kg and are the largest of all eggs, though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the bird. The nest may contain 15 to 60 shiny, whitish eggs. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the male by night, making use of the different colors of the two sexes to escape detection. If threatened while sitting on the nest, the hen will press her long neck flat along the ground, blending with the background.
The eggs hatch in around 35 to 45 days. The male takes on the job of tending to the hatchlings.
Ostrich mainly feed on seeds and other plant matter; occasionally they also eat insects such as locusts. They have no teeth so they swallow pebbles to help to grind the swallowed foods in the gizzard. They can go without water for a long time, exclusively living off the moisture in the plants they eat. However, they do enjoy water and frequently take baths
Ostriches, contrary to popular belief, do not bury their heads in the sand.