For almost three years now what has seemed to us to be the loneliest creature on Londolozi has been the only representative of the biggest species of bird in the world.
The female ostrich that has become resident down in the south-west of the Sabi Sands has undergone a radical change in temperament during her tenure in the reserve, due entirely to the fact that she has had no ostrich contemporaries with which to associate. From being a relatively skittish bird when she first wandered in from what we can only presume was the Kruger National Park, she has swung to the other extreme of being almost over-familiar.

A VERY rare sighting at Londolozi, this female ostrich has been hanging around for the last week or so. The largest bird in the world, these flightless giants generally prefer far more open habitat, as among the thickets of the Sabi Sand reserve they fall easy prey to the large predators.

An early photograph of the female ostrich, at a time when she wouldn’t let a vehicle get close to her. Photograph by James Tyrrell

Whether it’s a latent curiosity of the species or a simple longing for some kind of companionship from this particular individual (I strongly suspect the latter), she has been known to approach a vehicle in order to investigate its occupants, maybe in the hope of finding some male company. Sadly, however, her hopes have always been dashed.

Until now.

A few days ago, word came over the wire that two male ostriches had been seen in the grasslands in the far south west of Londolozi. Naturally, the guiding team was highly sceptical, scarcely daring to believe that what we had been waiting for for over 1000 days had finally come to pass. Just imagine how intently the female ostrich has been waiting!

A few of the rangers headed down into the area that evening to see if they could substantiate the reports of these two birds, and lo and behold, they did indeed find two male ostriches, right in the middle of the area in which the female is most commonly found. As bad luck would have it, the female herself was miles away at the time, but as dusk lowered itself onto the bush, she was seen heading in the right direction to intercept the two males.

Late the next morning ranger Melvin Sambo was on his way home to camp when he spotted the female ostrich emerging onto the road just in front of him. To his surprise and excitement, there in front of her was one of the males (males are black whilst females are dark brown). The female seemed in ardent pursuit of the male, who was a little less relaxed with the Land Rover near than the female, which is not at all surprising since the males presumably also originated in the Kruger Park, an area in which they would have had less exposure to game drive vehicles. Melvin gave the pair some distance and the male ostrich relaxed visibly.

Hearing this report over the radio from back at camp, we leapt into a vehicle and headed out to try and capture some footage, but just as we arrived on the scene, the second male arrived and chaos erupted. The males began chasing each other in ever widening circles, presumably in competition over the female, while she was desperately trying to keep up, not wanting to let this potential mating opportunity disappear. I know ostriches can run fast, but when two males are aggressively going after each other and a female is effortlessly running at about 40kmh behind them, across some of the rockiest ground in Londolozi, you get a proper appreciation for the kind of running they are truly capable of.

Needless to say we were unable to keep up with the trio as they disappeared over a hill, and we had to return to camp with only a few snippets of shaky footage. Efforts to try and relocate the birds that evening were fruitless.

The next morning however the female was found again, in company with only one of the males, miles from the grasslands but thankfully close to the Londolozi camps, so it was a simple matter to head out again to capture some slightly better footage. Although one of the rangers had seen a bit of interaction between the pair in the morning (with the red skin on the male’s shins clear proof of his readiness to mate), we didn’t see any interaction while we were there, and decided to leave after only 15 minutes in case our presence was disturbing the male.

Ostrich-3

One of the males pursues the female. The red patches of skin on his shins show that he is ready to mate. Photograph by Andrea Sithole.

We don’t know if the male(s) will stick around for long enough to mate properly with the female. The hope is obviously that her eggs are fertilized, she lays a clutch and has chicks, although this is certainly not the most hospitable environment for an ostrich to try and raise a number of small, flightless offspring!

None of the ostriches were sighted this morning, but we await events…

Filed under Birds Wildlife

About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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23 Comments

on The Ostrich Finally Finds Some Companions

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Loretta
Guest

Amazing news! I am so excited for her. The last time we saw her she seemed sad and depressed, she wouldn’t come over to our vehicle like she had on previous trips. I hope one of the males sticks around to keep her company. She deserves to have some happiness 🙂

Susan Olson
Guest

Is this the same female in southern Sabi Sands known as Madonna? It would be wonderful to finally see she has a mate. I have seen her by herself for at least 2 years.

James Tyrrell

Hi Susan,
I’m pretty sure it will be the same female…

Win Smith
Guest

We loved seeing the Ostriches when on July 21st too!

Evette Hartig
Guest

So excited to hear the news, felt so bad for the lonely ostrich!

Jill Larone
Guest

Yeah! I’m so happy to see that this lonely lady Ostrich finally has a mate! I can’t imagine how she ended up on Londolozi all by herself for so long but it’s nice to see that she finally has some company. Please keep us updated on what happens next James!

James Tyrrell

Hi Jill, we will be sure too. Apparently she was seen mating with one of the males this morning…

Barbara Weyand
Guest

I experienced a wonderful sunset evening with your lonely ostrich. She rounded and rounded the Rover and plucked at the rubber gasket of the windshield for the longest time. I’m a casual photographer but was successful in getting many shots of her -she was so close- and the evening’s finale was a photo of breathtakingly beautiful sunset where she unexpectedly popped up for a close silhouette . One of my favorite photos of 5 fabulous days at Londolozi in the two plus weeks of safaris.

Kristine Dong
Guest

Oh my goodness! I’ve only ever seen her solo! I’ll be back next week and hope to see her happily with one (or both) males!

James Tyrrell

Hi Kristine,
let’s hope both males are still around!

Susan Strauss
Guest

That is great news!! Oh, I am so happy for our girl. She is a special ostrich….

Starwars
Guest

What do Ostrich eats?

James Tyrrell

Mainly plant matter; grass seeds, shoots, that sort of thing…

MJ Bradley
Guest

Good to know she has not one, but two suitors! Hope she finds a safe place to raise her little ones.

Kate Imrie
Guest

Such brilliant news, another classic example how a drought can throw up the unexpected! Thomas and Emma deliriously happy that their favorite bird has finally found some company, long live the ostriches.

James Tyrrell

Hi Katie,
Emma was the first person we thought of! Hopefully these guys stick around for awhile!
Hope you’re all having fun in the East!

TED SWINDON
Guest

HI JAMES,
WOW, SUCH GOOD NEWS FOR THE FEMALE OSTRICH!
I HOPE THEY MANAGE TO PRODUCE SOME OFFSPRING.
THANKS FOR SHARING THE STORY AND THE VIDEO.
KIND REGARDS,
TED.

James Tyrrell

Hi Ted,
Apparently they were seen again this morning and the male has relaxed enormously around the vehicles!
They were seen mating as well. Great news for all!

Trevor
Guest

Good news! Hope she gets her mate to become as relaxed around vehicles as she is. I will send a photo of her up real close and personal with us.

Susan Olson
Guest

Thank you for the reply

Jill Larone
Guest

Thanks for the response James! Hopefully there will be little ones soon…that would be very exciting!

Kim Johnson
Guest

Had multiple run ins with this bird whilst visiting last August. She seemed to take a real shining to Dan, our lovely ranger. After leaving her one time, I was able to capture a photo of 4 zebras looking in the same direction at the watering hole where we stopped for coffee. Turns out the gal was following us and made yet another attempt at luring Dan in. Very fond memories and incredible photos – so happy she will have her own species to mate with!

starwars
Guest

thanks!

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