My first introduction to ostriches was in the Johannesburg Zoo. I was four years old when my father held me up to feed peanuts to the ostriches penned behind a thick fence. I will never forget that ‘scary-happy-tickling’ feeling of the ostriches nibbling the palm of my hand. It was there that I first learned that ostriches also swallow pebbles to help grind their food as they have no teeth – at the time I was very relieved about the latter!
We all know that ostriches are the world’s largest birds and that they cannot fly. They can run very fast though – up to 70 km/h. Once we experienced some ostriches sprinting ahead of us on the Makgadikgadi Pan in Botswana and were amazed to discover how long their strides were: at least five metres!
On another occasion we were enthralled by the loud booming noise and dramatic flapping of wings in an ostrich mating ritual close to the Hapoor Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. Males and females take it in turns to incubate the eggs. The more drab colouring of the female suit the day, while the dark male blends more easily into the night vigil. Here are two images of a female sitting on eggs. The first was taken in the dry landscape of the Mountain Zebra National Park and the second in the currently flower-strewn Addo Elephant National Park.
Ostriches also indulge in dust bathing as this one is at the Addo Elephant National Park.
Apart from the joy of spotting ostriches in the wild, we have become used to seeing them on farms in both the Eastern and Western Cape. Even so, they remain fascinating creatures to observe.