Fun Facts About Ostriches: Taber’s Newest Best Friend
Written by Andres Salazar
Late November saw one of the strangest and funniest events in recent Alberta history. Completely unbelievable at first, the town of Taber saw a group of about twenty ostriches escape from their enclosures and run around the southern Alberta town. Local police scrambled to capture them to avoid any further chaos. Unfortunately, one of the large birds was killed in a vehicle-related accident. However, most of them were caught in a matter of hours (Opinko, 2022).
This event sparked a wave of memes, news articles, and discussions about how strange the day was. Suddenly, a connection was built between one of the largest flightless birds and the small Alberta town. Even now, in January, when the topic of Taber comes up, it isn’t uncommon to hear a question along the lines of “Hey, do you remember those ostriches that were loose in Taber? That was weird, hey?” With that being said, as ostriches are not native to our province, many people here may not know too much about our new, feathered friends. So, I figured it would be a good idea to look at some interesting facts about Taber’s newest best friend, the ostrich.
The common ostrich is native to the dry and tree-dense lands of central and southern Africa, where they live in flocks as part of a community of foraging animals (African Wildlife Foundation, 2020). Being part of their community includes an interesting mating pattern, where 80% percent of female ostriches reproduce in monogamous contexts, while only 20% engage in mating with different partners. However, the most interesting part is that, in most cases, the female ostrich initiates the mating process with the male. This initiation is often done by the female chasing away younger ostriches and posing in front of the male while making a clucking sound by quickly opening and closing their beaks (Brasso et al., 2020).
Ostriches are known to have a diverse diet of plants, roots, and seeds. They are equally known for even eating small animals, including insects, lizards, and other small creatures. Their natural habitat is typically quite harsh, so they tend to have a digestive system that can accommodate the potential nutritional scarcity. However, in multiple studies, ostriches have been observed eating things that are actively bad for them, including pieces of metal, sharp items, and in some cases of captive ostriches, even excessive amounts of feces (Brasso et al., 2020). This results from the bird’s strong sense of curiosity and stress, though this can cause serious illness.
As the residents of Taber surely noticed, ostriches are huge. Taber residents were first-hand witnesses to the fact that ostriches are the largest type of bird on the planet. With a maximum height of 9 feet and an average weight nearing 300 pounds, ostriches tower over most of the planet’s extensive library of bird species (Bradford, 2022). Everything about these birds is enormous, including their eyes, which are about two inches in diameter, the largest of any land-walking animal. Even right from birth, ostriches are often the same size, if not larger, as adult chickens.
There is much more to learn about these flightless giants. As surprised as the residents of Taber were on November 24th, seeing nine-foot-tall ostriches running around a small Canadian community could have also inspired some to learn more about the animals out there. Something is fascinating about where they are from, what they eat and how gigantic they are. Though, the most perplexing thing is that such a strange event happened with such a strange animal in a place like Taber.
African Wildlife Foundation. (2020). Ostrich. Retrieved December 16, 2022, from https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/ostrich.
Bradford, Alina. (2022, April 12). Ostrich facts: The world’s largest bird. Retrieved December 16, 2022, from https://www.livescience.com/27433-ostriches.html.
Brassó, Lili & Béri, Béla & Komlosi, Istvan. (2020, May). Studies on Ostrich (Struthio Camelus) – Review. Acta Agraria Debreceniensis. 15-22. Retrieved December 16 2022, from 10.34101/actaagrar/1/3772.
Opinko, David. (2022, November 24). Police rounding up ostriches on the loose in Taber. Retrieved December 16, 2022, from https://lethbridgenewsnow.com/2022/11/24/police-rounding-up-ostriches-on-the-loose-in-taber/ .