Struthio – Ostriches

The heaviest, tallest and fastest runners among all birds

One of the most distinctive features of ostriches is the absence of a ‘keel’ on their breastbone. The keel is a critical component in most birds as the attachment point for the powerful flight muscles. However, in ostriches, this evolutionary path diverges, as their small, underdeveloped wings are incapable of supporting flight. Instead of conquering the skies, ostriches have adapted to excel on the ground. Their powerful legs are capable of delivering deadly kicks to predators, and they can achieve remarkable speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour), making them the fastest two-legged animals on Earth.

The adaptability of ostriches extends to their reproductive strategies. They are ground-nesters, with their breeding grounds located on the vast savannas where they reside. A single ostrich egg is a marvel in itself, being the largest egg of any living bird species. An ostrich egg can weigh approximately 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds) and is equivalent in volume to about 24 chicken eggs. This impressive size, however, does not deter the male ostriches from their duties. Displaying a strong sense of responsibility, the male ostriches are almost always involved in the incubation process, taking turns with the females to ensure the safety and warmth of their offspring.

Despite their impressive size and speed, ostriches face significant threats from human activities. Hunting for their feathers and eggs has historically been a major cause of their decline. Ostrich feathers, valued for their use in fashion and decoration, led to extensive hunting in the 18th and 19th centuries. Moreover, their eggs, sought after for their size and the unique properties of their shells, have also contributed to the pressures on ostrich populations. Habitat loss and degradation pose additional challenges as the expansion of human settlement and agriculture encroaches on their natural habitats.