SAHARAN NATURE

OSTRICHES

Ostriches are classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Struthioniformes, family Struthionidae

Ostrich is the common name for a large, flightless bird. Now found only in Africa, fossils indicate that the ostrich once also lived throughout Europe and Asia. Ostriches are the largest and strongest of living birds, attaining a height from crown to foot of about 2.4 m (about 8 ft) and a weight of up to 136 kg (300 lb). They have long necks and small heads, with large eyes and short, broad beaks. They spread their small wings when running and have long, powerful legs that are used for defense. The feet have only two toes. Male ostriches are black, with white wings and tail. The white feathers of the male, which are large and soft, are the ostrich plumes of commercial value. The female is a dull grayish brown.

Ostriches are rapid runners and can attain about 65 km/h (about 40 mph). The males are polygamous and travel about in hot, sandy areas with three or four females, or in groups of four or five males accompanied by mates and young. The females lay their yellowish-white eggs together in a single large depression in the sand. The eggs weigh about 1.4 kg (about 3 lb) each and have a volume of about 1.4 liters (about 3 pt). The male sits on them at night, and the female incubates them by day.

In the last half of the 19th century ostrich farming, or the breeding of domesticated ostriches for their plumes, was carried on extensively in South Africa, Algeria, Australia, France, and the United States. Ostrich plumes were used in hat making and dressmaking. Farming declined as the demand for ostrich plumes became almost negligible; however, the introduction of ostrich hide as a luxury leather has renewed interest in ostrich farming. (after Microsoft Encarta on-line http://encarta.msn.com)

The selection of Spanish Sahara issues, dedicated to ostriches, covers the 1940th to  the 1960th years.

Credits: many thanks to Tracy Barber (USA) for the scans.

 


Created: 09/01/02. Revised: 01/07/06
Copyright 2002 by Victor Manta, Switzerland.
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