A deep booming song (if one can call it a song) came filtering through the southern grasslands this morning. Was it a lion? Ground hornbill maybe?
Movement to the left of our vehicle caught our attention, and looking towards where the sun was rising, we saw what looked like two long tree stumps bobbing up over the opposite hill crest. As they came closer and emerged from the thicket line, their big black bodies revealed them to be two male ostriches, running fast in our direction.
Male ostriches get very territorial during the breeding season, running up to any other ostrich they happen to see; chasing them away if they are male or putting on a courtship display if it is female. The booming call we had heard is given off by the male, and is mainly heard during the breeding season.
Clearly the breeding season has kicked off, as the first male was being unceremoniously run out of the area by the second.
You can hear the call in the video below:
So what does this mean? We had one male ostrich chasing another in what was almost certainly a territorial dispute, right on the heels of a territorial vocalisation. Both behaviours commonly being associated with breeding. After an incredible 2017 in which the lonely female ostrich finally found a mate (watch the video at the end of the post), does this mating behaviour from the males mean that we might be on the verge of a repeat?
Parental care in ostriches usually lasts around 9 months. From the initial clutch that hatched in October 2016, nine months took us forward to winter of last year. I know well after that the young ostriches were still associating with their mother (unless my memory is playing me false), so maybe it has taken until now for the males of the area to want to breed again, or at least for any females to become receptive.
To be honest I don’t know enough about the ostrich mating cycle to comment with any authority on the possible outcomes here, but I do know that this morning was the first time since the initial arrival of the males during the 2016 drought that I have heard the call of an ostrich on Londolozi. Shortly after we heard the male calling like that the first time, he paired up with the female and the rest is history:
About three kilometres from where we had seen the male ostriches this morning, three females were feeding in a short-grass clearing. From the looks of the group it was two sub-adults and an adult female. Perhaps the original female, perhaps another, but given the attendance of the two younger ones, I’m guessing it was she of the video.
Although this original bird took centre stage in the Valentine’s drama of last year, just as the video was released three other female ostriches wandered in from the Kruger Park, bolstering an already growing Londolozi ostrich population. Given that ostriches only reach maturity at around 2-3 years of age, I think it’s safe to assume that last year’s chicks won’t be breeding this year, but even so, the males now have a choice of four adult females when two years ago only one roamed the grasslands.
Four times the chances of a clutch being laid and raised.
I know James Souchon posted recently about his hope to have the wild dogs den on Londolozi this winter, but I’ve starred in that movie of hope before, so will wish instead for something different.
I think I’ll rather hope for the announcement over the radio on a cold winter’s morning that a nest has been found, and 10 white globes are lying in it, and we can look forward to some amazing viewing of what will only be Londolozi’s second ever Ostrich Family.