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Ostriches on Curacao

Ostriches on Curacao

You would not expect to see Ostriches on Curacao so quickly. However the climate and nature of Curacao is a perfect habitat for Ostriches. And therefor you can learn everything there is to know about these amazing creatures on the Curacao Ostrich Farm.

Curaçao Ostrich Farm

The ostrich or common ostrich (Struthio camelus) is the larges flightless bird native to Africa. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and can run at up to about 70 km/h (19 m/s; 43 mph), the fastest land speed of any bird.

The long neck and legs keep their head up to 2.8 m (9 ft) above the ground, and their eyes are said to be the largest of any land vertebrate: 50 mm (2.0 in) in diameter;  they can therefore perceive predators at a great distance. The eyes are shaded from sunlight from above. However, the head and bill are relatively small for the birds’ huge size, with the bill measuring 12 to 14.3 cm (4.7 to 5.6 in).

Curaçao Ostrich FarmTheir skin varies in colour depending on the subspecies, with some having light or dark gray skin and others having pinkish or even reddish skin. The strong legs of the ostrich are unfeathered and show bare skin, with the tarsus (the lowest upright part of the leg) being covered in scales: red in the male, black in the female. The tarsus of the ostrich is the largest of any living bird, measuring 39 to 53 cm (15 to 21 in) in length. The bird has just two toes on each foot (most birds have four), with the nail on the larger, inner toe resembling a hoof. The outer toe has no nail. The reduced number of toes is an adaptation that appears to aid in running, useful for getting away from predators. Ostriches can run at a speed over 70 km/h (43 mph) and can cover 3 to 5 m (9.8 to 16.4 ft) in a single stride. The wings reach a span of about 2 metres (6 ft 7 in), and the wing chord measurement of 90 cm (35 in) is around the same size as for the largest flying birds. The wings are used in mating displays and to shade chicks. The feathers lack the tiny hooks that lock together the smooth external feathers of flying birds, and so are soft and fluffy and serve as insulation.

New chicks are fawn in colour, with dark brown spots. During the first year of life, chicks grow at about 25 cm (9.8 in) per month. At one year of age, ostriches weigh approximately 45 kilograms (99 lb). Their lifespan is up to 40–45 years.

Curaçao Ostrich Farm

Ostriches become sexually mature when they are 2 to 4 years old; females mature about six months earlier than males. As with other birds, an individual may reproduce several times over its lifetime. 

The cock performs with his wings, alternating wing beats, until he attracts a mate. They will go to the mating area and he will maintain privacy by driving away all intruders. They graze until their behaviour is synchronized, then the feeding becomes secondary and the process takes on a ritualistic appearance. The cock will then excitedly flap alternate wings again, and start poking on the ground with his bill. He will then violently flap his wings to symbolically clear out a nest in the soil. Then, while the hen runs a circle around him with lowered wings, he will wind his head in a spiral motion. She will drop to the ground and he will mount for copulation. Ostriches raised entirely by humans may direct their courtship behaviour not at other ostriches, but toward their human keepers.

curacao-ostrich-farm-22The female ostrich lays her fertilised eggs in a single communal nest, a simple pit, 30–60 cm (12–24 in) deep and 3 m (9.8 ft) wide,  scraped in the ground by the male. The dominant female lays her eggs first, and when it is time to cover them for incubation she discards extra eggs from the weaker females, leaving about 20 in most cases. A female ostrich can distinguish her own eggs from the others in a communal nest. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all eggs, though they are actually the smallest eggs relative to the size of the adult bird — on average they are 15 cm (5.9 in) long, 13 cm (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lb), over 20 times the weight of a chicken’s egg and only 1 to 4% the size of the female. They are glossy cream-coloured, with thick shells marked by small pits. The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the males by night. This uses the colouration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night. The incubation period is 35 to 45 days, which is rather short compared to other ratites.

Curaçao Ostrich FarmWhen threatened, ostriches run away, but they can cause serious injury and death with kicks from their powerful legs. Their legs can only kick forward. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger. This defensive behavior of lying low, so that they may appear from a distance to have their head buried.