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OOstriches became popular farm birds due to their majestic plumage. Their large, fluffy feathers were harvested to make brooms and flap away mosquitoes. But these flightless birds are also found in the wild.
Visit the Karoo and you might spot a dark-feathered male with his wives. Female ostriches are grey and drabber in appearance, but that doesn’t stop male ostriches from putting on quite the show. A mating dance is a rare sighting, and involves lots of feather-flapping, trotting and swooping low to the ground.
FFemale ostriches lay their eggs in a communal pit-nest dug by the male. The females know which eggs belong to them. They take turns guarding the eggs until they hatch. Sometimes the dominant female will nudge another female’s eggs to the edge of the nest, making them easier targets for predators.
Chicks hatch by flexing their muscles – quite a feat, considering how thick-shelled their eggs are. In fact, ostriches are quite hardy in general. They are one of the longest-living bird species.
Next time you spot an ostrich, forget about brooms and feather dusters. These no-nonsense birds are far more interesting than that.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
BirdLife South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 789 1122
Things to do
If you’re visiting a game reserve, book a guided safari to learn more about ostriches and other South African wildlife. If you’re passing through the Karoo, there are plenty of adventure sports, like river rafting and abseiling, on offer.
What to pack
Keep your smart phone or a camera close at hand, especially if you’re lucky enough to witness an ostrich mating dance.