• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote® Consider the Ostrich

Air Date: Week of February 17, 2012

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

An ostrich egg. (Photo: Lenore Edman)

The ostrich is an unusual bird. It’s the fastest animal on two legs yet can’t fly. But, as Michael Stein reports, contrary to popular lore, the ostrich doesn’t stick its head in the sand.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman.

[BIRD NOTE® THEME]


Young Ostrich. (Photo: Scott Liddell)

GELLERMAN: On this week’s BirdNote®, we hear about Big Bird. But as Michael Stein reports, this one doesn’t live on Sesame Street.

STEIN: The ostrich is a bird of superlatives, the largest and tallest bird on the planet, some growing to fully eight feet tall, and weighing 250 pounds. It’s also the fastest creature on two legs, capable of running at 40 miles an hour.

[WHOOPING SOUND OF AN OSTRICH]

STEIN: Being the tallest and fastest is the secret of the ostrich’s ability to survive in the dry savannahs of Africa, where this flightless bird still lives in the wild.


Young Ostrich (Photo: James Preston)

[WHOOPING SOUND OF AN OSTRICH]

STEIN: The long, flexible neck allows the ostrich to feed on the ground, and raise its head high where its keen eyes scan for lions, leopards, and cheetahs.

Birds with similar features are the emu in Australia and the rhea in South America. These birds can be flightless in an environment full of predators, because they all have long necks, sharp eyes, and legs that can outrun their predators.


An ostrich family. (Photo: Brian Snelson)

Contrary to popular belief, ostriches have never been observed to stick their heads in the sand. They’re more likely to run away when threatened; but if an ostrich senses danger and can’t run away, it lies down and remains still, with head and neck outstretched.

We end with a short poem for a big bird, The Ostrich, by Ogden Nash: The ostrich roams the great Sahara./ Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra./ It has such long and lofty legs,/ I'm glad it sits to lay its eggs.

[WHOOPING SOUND OF AN OSTRICH]

GELLERMAN: That’s Michael Stein of BirdNote®. To see some ostrich photos, roam over to our website, LOE dot org.

*Call of the Ostrich provided by Martyn Stewart, Naturesound Productions
Ambient sound of African savannah from Kenyan rift valley, background to elephant eating, G. F. Budney.

 

Links

BirdNote®’s Consider the Ostrich was written by John Kessler

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.