Of the thousands of bird species known today, the ostrich is the largest. These huge birds sometimes reach a height of 2.6 m (8.5 ft.) and a weight of 135 kg (300 lb.), although they are more usually about 2 m (8 ft.) tall and about 100 kg (230 lb.).
Ostriches cannot fly, but they are very fast runners. Their small, flat heads and long necks are almost bare and the rest of their body is covered with longer feathers. The plumage of adult males is glossy black, and the wings and tail feathers are white. The females and young males are greyish-brown. A flock is usually made of one male and two to six females.
Each female lays two to five eggs in the communal nest. Consequently, the clutch will range from 12 to 16 eggs. Each egg will weigh about 1.5 kg (3 lb.). The nest is simply a cavity scooped from the ground. The dominant pair (male and female) take turns sitting on the nest. If threatened while sitting on the nest, the hen will press her long neck flat along the ground, blending with the background. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand.
In the wild, they are found in drier and sandy regions of Africa, and are very well adapted to desert life, absorbing water from the plants they eat.
Ostriches have been raised in captivity as a source of food, and some people have even tried to ride them—a risky business!