I am very sad to announce that since our last ostrich update a couple weeks ago, the ostrich family has lost two of their chicks. At just three and a half weeks old and weighing a tiny three kilograms, wandering through an environment with a multitude of threats, this was probably to be expected. I don’t think there’s reason to fear just yet though because with each passing day their chances of survival increase and so we continue to hope for the best.
These birds will develop quite rapidly in size over the next few months. At 42 days they will weigh five kilograms. This will increase to ten kilograms and they’ll have their first true feathers by 70 days. At six months they will weigh 45kg and will be a whopping 85kg by the time they reach a year old. At this point they will be the height but not quite the mass of the adults.
It is hard to say what exactly would have eaten the chicks but being so small they are under threat from many species including jackals, hyenas and even eagles such as the Martial Eagle.
As they get bigger though, these threats decrease because fewer predators are big enough to eat them. As they get older, it will only be animals such as lions, leopards and possibly hyenas that can hunt them. In a few months the chicks will also be a lot more aware of their surroundings and will be better able to defend themselves. Currently it must be a bit like herding cats when there’s a threat as the chicks scatter in all manner of directions. The adults are also more adept at defending them from the ground by doing a distraction display which involves running away from the youngsters, collapsing with a swaying neck and flopping their wings in a broken wing display. But at the moment, a lot of the threat comes from the sky and quite honestly their isn’t much the parents can do in these situations.
We saw the family of birds this morning and with the sprinkling of rain that we’ve had there are fresh grass shoots for them to feed on, making foraging easier. It also seems that they are sticking to fairly particular parts of southern Londolozi where very few predators have been found recently only amplifying our hope that they continue to survive.