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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote® Consider the Ostrich

Air Date: Week of

An ostrich egg. (Photo: Lenore Edman)

The ostrich is an unusual bird. It’s the fastest animal on two legs yet can’t fly. But, as Michael Stein reports, contrary to popular lore, the ostrich doesn’t stick its head in the sand.


GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman.


Young Ostrich. (Photo: Scott Liddell)

GELLERMAN: On this week’s BirdNote®, we hear about Big Bird. But as Michael Stein reports, this one doesn’t live on Sesame Street.

STEIN: The ostrich is a bird of superlatives, the largest and tallest bird on the planet, some growing to fully eight feet tall, and weighing 250 pounds. It’s also the fastest creature on two legs, capable of running at 40 miles an hour.


STEIN: Being the tallest and fastest is the secret of the ostrich’s ability to survive in the dry savannahs of Africa, where this flightless bird still lives in the wild.

Young Ostrich (Photo: James Preston)


STEIN: The long, flexible neck allows the ostrich to feed on the ground, and raise its head high where its keen eyes scan for lions, leopards, and cheetahs.

Birds with similar features are the emu in Australia and the rhea in South America. These birds can be flightless in an environment full of predators, because they all have long necks, sharp eyes, and legs that can outrun their predators.

An ostrich family. (Photo: Brian Snelson)

Contrary to popular belief, ostriches have never been observed to stick their heads in the sand. They’re more likely to run away when threatened; but if an ostrich senses danger and can’t run away, it lies down and remains still, with head and neck outstretched.

We end with a short poem for a big bird, The Ostrich, by Ogden Nash: The ostrich roams the great Sahara./ Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra./ It has such long and lofty legs,/ I'm glad it sits to lay its eggs.


GELLERMAN: That’s Michael Stein of BirdNote®. To see some ostrich photos, roam over to our website, LOE dot org.

*Call of the Ostrich provided by Martyn Stewart, Naturesound Productions
Ambient sound of African savannah from Kenyan rift valley, background to elephant eating, G. F. Budney.



BirdNote®’s Consider the Ostrich was written by John Kessler


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