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The ostrich may be flightless, but it can run extremely fast, which is how this huge, nomadic bird escapes from predators as it roams the open grasslands in search of food. The ostrich’s powerful legs equip it to roam the open plains with ease while other special features help it cope with the relentless heat and dust.

The ostrich lives on the short grass savannahs of Africa and in semi-desert regions. The ostrich avoids long grass, where predators may lie in wait, and shuns thick woodland for the same reason. It favors undulating land, which allows it to feed inconspicuously and where it can run away at the first sign of danger.

The ostrich normally lives in small groups, five to ten birds, although large flocks assemble around water in the dry season or where food is abundant. When not feeding, the ostrich spends its time resting, dust bathing, and preening. With its excellent hearing and height, the ostrich is often the first animal on the plains to spot a predator; its fleeing flocks often alert other animals to danger.

The ostrich feeds in a small group, stooping for plant material and occasionally insects and small lizards. It swallows several items together, and the food can be seen traveling down the neck as a small lump. In dry areas, the ostrich browses on succulent plants, which may provide all its water needs although it will drink regularly when water is available. It also swallows small stones and grit to help break down and digest plant matter.

The male performs a courtship dance in front of a female and prepares several nests for her. After mating, the female selects a nest and lays her first egg, which is 6” long. As the first to be mated, she becomes the dominant female of the group. She lays an egg every two days, to a total of up to 11 eggs. The male mates with several other females. They all lay clutches in the same nest; there may by 20 to 30 eggs when the dominant female is ready to begin her 42- to 46-day incubation. The whole clutch may hatch in one or two days. Chicks are first guarded by both the male and female but later join other broods to form a creche, reaching full size in 18 months.

Traditionally, the ostrich was hunted for meat, eggs, and hide, as well as feathers. A more recent demand for its meat has prompted growth in commercial farming; this has relieved hunting pressure on wild birds, whose status is stable. Attempts are being made to re-establish ostriches in their former ranges.