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

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about ostriches. September is National Ostrich Month, a time to celebrate the biggest bird on earth, whose egg is as large as 24 chicken eggs.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: What has legs, not a beast nor feathers for flight, but a head when alarmed to be buried from sight? That riddle, of course, is about nature's own riddle, the improbable ostrich. September is National Ostrich Month, and this bird, which is native to South Africa, has inspired tales as tall as its own gangly frame. Carl Linnaeus, who devised the most popular system for naming plants and animals, dubbed the ostrich Struthio camelus . That's Latin for "sparrow camel," which pretty aptly describes this, um, bird. It has a small beak and curious, large eyes. The wings poking from its humped body are useless for flight. Ostriches are the largest birds in the world, but they have a brain smaller than those eyeballs. They can grow up to eight feet tall, and they have a surprisingly persistent manner. By the way, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand, but they do duck way down when confronted with danger, and stretch their necks out along the ground to avoid being seen. Ostriches, though, don't have much to fear. Those seemingly spindly legs? They can let loose a kick that can kill all but the toughest predator. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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