Ostriches bury their heads when they know that a predator is in the area, but also when there is no sign of danger.
The absence of a threat piqued the interest of scientists—especially how it still results in an ostrich burying its head.
It’s nothing new for scientists to discover these types of things—leading them to believe that this is either a passed-down behavior or just an insecure ostrich.
Many predators hunt ostriches on the African plains, including wild cats.
Ostriches came up with a clever trick to avoid being killed.
When ostriches feel threatened they will drop onto their knees and quickly bury their head in the ground and remain motionless until the danger has passed.
“Ostriches will not be chased or driven away from a water hole, but they do run for it when danger approaches,” said Simon Thomsett, who breeds ostrich on his farm near Featherston in the central North Island.
“They will run to a bank and if ostriches feel they’re still in danger, ostriches bury their heads in the ground.”
While ostriches are hiding, their senses are excellent.
Should a predator approach, an ostrich pulls its head from the dirt and delivers powerful kicks with its legs or the ostrich jumps into flight.
Ostriches are also capable of running at speeds of 47 km per hour, making the ostrich one of the fastest two-legged animals on earth—an animal not many predators can catch off-guard.
Even if they do, they’ll still have to catch up with the ostrich.
Although ostriches are unable to fly, they can glide up to 15 meters. Once fleeing is successful, the ostrich will stay in this position until it feels safe again.
Why Ostriches Bury Their Heads
However, the main reason why ostriches bury their heads is that they lay their eggs in their pre-dug holes.
Ostriches stick their heads into the hole to rotate the eggs while making sure the eggs are evenly heated.
According to Thomsett, ostriches are the only birds that incubate their eggs in that way.
Ostriches lay their eggs with their mating partner at the same time every day.
After laying the eggs, the ostriches spend a couple of minutes dancing and then find shade.
This is the exact time they put their heads into the hole.
The ritual of putting ostrich heads in the ground varies between ostriches.
Some will put their head in a hole for a few seconds, others will leave their heads in the ground for much longer.
If an ostrich originally lays its eggs warm, then they wouldn’t bother checking up on the hole.
If the eggs aren’t warm enough, that’s the only time ostriches spend longer in their holes.
“There are many things about ostriches that have yet to be discovered,” said Thomsett.
Source: The Dominion Post, Wellington, New Zealand (20 May 2002)
Author: Julie Hill
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