When we think of dangerous birds, animals like eagles and hawks come to mind first.
Sharp beaks, long talons, and large wingspans make them excellent predators, but there’s one bird that’s much more dangerous than that.
It’s a bird that can win a race against a leopard, win a fight against a lion, and do all that without even using its wings.
This is Wild and domestic, and today we will tell you the story of the ostrich, the biggest and most dangerous bird on the planet.
species of Ostrich
Before we can talk about what specifically makes ostriches so dangerous and powerful, let’s start from the basics.
There are two species of ostrich, the common ostrich, and the Somali ostrich, but the latter was thought to be the subspecies of the former as recently as 2014.
Talking about subspecies, the common ostrich has 3 extant; the South African ostrich, the Masai ostrich, and the North African ostrich.
There was also the fourth subspecies called the Arabian ostrich, which was extensively hunted for its feathers, eggs, meat, and leather in the Arabian Peninsula.
Sadly, it went extinct in the second part of the 20th century.
All subspecies of the common ostrich are very similar in appearance and characteristics,
The main difference is their habitats, as you could probably guess from the names.
The North African ostrich
However, we’re going to focus on the biggest subspecies, the North African ostrich. It’s the biggest bird in the world, growing up to 9 feet (275 cm) tall and weighing up to 340 pounds (154 kg)!
It’s found in savannas and semi-deserts that are notoriously difficult to survive, with temperatures sometimes surpassing 105°F (40°C).
The scorching sun and arid air pushed the ostrich to specifically adapt to such an environment.
The ostrich regulates its body temperature by panting, just like dogs!
However, unlike dogs, this bird doesn’t have sweat glands, and cannot cool itself by sweating.
That’s where its unique feathers come in. They basically act as a thermostat, regulating ostrich’s body temperature.
Feather flattening helps the ostrich preserve its body heat during cold nights, but more impressive is feather fluffing.
By moving the feathers, the ostrich can create a 3-inch (7.6 cm) thick insulating layer of air which prevents it from overheating during hot days.
The ostrich had also evolved a unique heart structure that’s unlike flying birds’, and large nostrils supplying oxygen into the lungs that have 10 air sacs.
Finally, its metabolism and great water retention ability allow the ostrich to get enough hydration from its diet and survive without water for days on end.
The ostrich is an omnivore, meaning its diet consists of both, plant and animal-based foods.
However, it’s mainly built around plant material, and things like shrubs, grass, leaves, and bushes constitute over half of its total diet.
The ostrich hunts only about 5% of its food, preying on small mammals, including various species of rodents, lizards, and frogs, and even insects like locusts and moths.
Most interestingly, as much as one-fifth of its diet by weight consists of rocks, pebbles, and minerals, that aid in digestion.
Like all birds, the ostrich doesn’t have teeth, so it swallows its food whole.
Such food is difficult to digest, so the ostrich keeps rocks in one of its two stomachs and uses them to grind up the food inside, making it easier to digest.
You might’ve just asked how the ostrich can be the most dangerous bird on the planet if it doesn’t have teeth, and well, it’s time to explore the lethal arsenal it possesses.
Can Ostriches Defeat Lions?
The ostrich inhabits the same areas as the big cats of Africa, including cheetahs, leopards, and lions.
They are some of the most ferocious predators roaming the earth.
So how could possibly a flightless bird that primarily eats plants and sometimes preys on mice and rats defeat animals like that?
How can Ostrich defeat Leopards and Lions?
For starters, the ostrich is actually really good at avoiding such encounters in the first place.
It’s the owner of the biggest eyes of all land vertebrates, measuring 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
Not only such eyes are just huge, but they’re also protected from the sun, dust, and sand by long eyelashes.
It results in spectacular vision, making ostrich capable of spotting predators miles away.
However, the big cats of Africa are gifted with supreme hunting instincts and ambushing skills, which allow them to sneak up on the ostrich without being noticed.
Surprisingly, even that rarely ends poorly for the ostrich, as it’s the fastest bipedal animal on earth and can reach the speed of 45 miles per hour (72 kph)!
For comparison, that’s faster than the top speed of leopards, who can reach 40 miles per hour (64 kph), and comparable to lions, who can run at 50 miles per hour (80 kph) for short bursts of time.
Alright, but what happens if the ostrich has nowhere to go and has to fight its attacker?
Believe it or not, this bird is gifted with one of the most lethal weapons in the entire animal kingdom – kicks.
According to some sources, the ostrich can kick with a force of 2,000 PSI!
To put this into perspective, the bite force of a leopard is about 300 PSI, meaning the kick of a single ostrich packs nearly as much force as the bites of 7 leopards combined.
In addition to that, each foot of the ostrich is adorned with a 4-inch (10 cm) long talon that’s sharp enough to easily pierce through the skin of most animals.
How strong is an Ostrich kick?
You might think leopards are nothing compared to lions, so how does the ostrich’s kick measure up against the bite force of the lion?
The biggest African cat has a bite force of about 650 PSI, meaning it would take three lions to generate as much force by biting, as one ostrich can by kicking.
However that’s not all, and the ostrich has another way of protecting itself from predators.
Sometimes, the ostrich uses its hard breastbone to ram into the target, knocking it over.
Then, the ostrich utilizes its natural gift of weight and starts jumping on the victim, crushing it alive.
Just to remind you, the ostrich can weigh up to 340 pounds (154 kg), and that’s more than enough weight to seriously mess someone up.
That being said, just knowing that the ostrich is more than capable of being lethal is not enough to call it the most dangerous bird on the planet.
Is it aggressive enough to use its weapons proactively? Does it attack humans?
First of all, the ostrich is diurnal species, meaning it’s active during the day.
More importantly, it’s one of the most territorial land animals, with males protecting areas spanning up to 7 ¾ square miles (20 km²).
If someone enters its territory, the ostrich isn’t hesitant to show up who’s the boss there.
It’s also necessary to mention that ostriches are some of the most hunted wild species in Africa.
It’s a highly prized game among indigenous peoples because the red and lean meat of a single ostrich can feed an entire village for weeks.
Poachers also actively hunt ostriches, as there are few things a poacher can boast more about than accurately hitting a bird that’s running 45 miles per hour.
Not only that, but ostriches are also widely farmed in many parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the U.S.
As ostriches aren’t fully domesticated, farming them is a risky endeavor.
The ostrich aggressively lashing out at a farmer isn’t something out of the ordinary and happens rather frequently.
As you can see, there’s a lot of interaction between humans and ostriches, in both, wild and commercial settings.
Because of that, every single year several people lose their lives after being kicked or stomped by the ostrich and many more just barely survive after sustaining serious injuries.
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