Ostrich Feet: Interesting Facts That You May Not Know | Kidadl


Ostrich Feet: Interesting Facts That You May Not Know

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Most people have visited the zoo at some point in their lives.

A zoo is a favorite place for most of us who enjoy learning about wildlife. It is usually a lovely experience for all of us to see wild animals and birds in natural habitats.

When we were in school, short visits to the zoo were organized as part of academics as part of school field trips. At the zoo, when we recall seeing several amazing birds with distinct colors, the one we always remember is most magnanimous of all, an ostrich, because of its long neck, big eyes, and extending eyelashes, as well as its jolting walk. Isn't it wonderful how such a huge bird can remain perfectly balanced on only two feet?

Before focusing on its feet, let's have a glance at what an ostrich is, with its black and white feathers. We all know the largest bird on the planet is an ostrich, but surprisingly it is flightless. A few more birds belong to the Palaeognathae group of flightless birds, such as emus, rheas, and kiwis. These flightless birds are also recognized for delivering the largest egg of any surviving land species in the world. Earlier the ostrich was known as the camel bird, and this is how one of its species was named after it as Struthio camelus. Another reason for this name might be ostriches, like camels, can survive high temperatures and go for long periods without water.

A chick is nearly full-grown and reaches its maximum height at six months of age but does not get its black and white feathers until it attains maturity at three or four years of age. Ostriches were found once in the wild throughout southern Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Africa until the mid-twentieth century. Today, it is unfortunate to observe that seven species have been driven to extinction, leaving just two of nine documented species. The last two surviving species are the common ostrich and the Somali ostrich. Now, if we want to watch ostriches in the wild, we must travel to an African country other than those south of the Sahara.

Ostriches can only be found in African open dry and semi-arid habitats such as savannas and the Sahel. The Somali ostrich species is found in the horn of Africa, where it developed independently from the common ostrich in the East African Rift valley. These largest animals are cultivated throughout the globe, primarily for their feathers which are used for decorating and feather dusters. Ostrich skin is additionally used to make leather goods. Today we are not delving further into the world of an ostrich but let's take a peek at the ostrich's feet.

Before diving into the specifics of ostrich feet, there are some more fascinating facts about animals' feet you can discover in related content like penguin feet and frog feet.

What are ostrich feet called?

Birds have wonderful feet that are unique from feet of humans. Various kinds of bird feet perform varied functions and reflect a lot about a bird's habitat.

Apart from looking a little different from the typical bird with a long neck and long legs, you won't discover any feet when you will encounter an ostrich; instead, there are only two toes beneath powerful legs. The bigger toe contains two roughly parallel digit cushions fixed by fibrous connective tissues. It reaches from the first to fourth phalanxes, whereas the smaller toe has just one cushion beneath the phalanxes. Not only for an ostrich, but it seems like many birds' knees lean backward. Did you know it is not a knee? It is actually the bird's ankle/heel joint.

The knee is hidden behind feathers close to the bird's body. Everything below the ankle is the foot; most birds walk on their toes instead of on their complete foot, which is understood as a digitigrade action. Ostriches have only two toes, although most birds have three or four. Those toes, on the other hand, are massive. Ostrich feet name is didactyl feet. Didactyl is a Greek word that means two-toed. It has two toes on each side, and the inner one has a huge nail that resembles that of a horse's hoof, which aids in running at high speeds and escaping predators.

Did you know that an ostrich can carry up to 60 eggs at once on these two toes? Now, if you're wondering about other birds' content, we've got you covered there, too. The most popular feet in birds are anisodactyl feet, which have a backward first digit and three forward digits, where a digit is a bird's toe. We can see this type of foot in passerines or perching birds. Next in line comes the zygodactyl foot, where the first and fourth digits face backward and the second and third digits face forward. This sort of foot is seen mostly in woodpeckers, parrots, cuckoos, owls, and a few other species.

Next is the pamprodactyl foot, which has four digits that face forward; however, the first and last digits can be turned backward; we can see this kind of foot in swifts. Heterodactyl feet have two forward and two backward digits; however, the first and second digits are backward while the third and fourth digits are forward. We can see these feet only in trogons. The syndactyl foot has the second and third digits combined, whereas the first digit is small and reversed. Kingfishers have these types of feet.

The American three-toed woodpecker has tridactyl feet, where the first digit is missing. The next form is the popular webbed feet, which are further split into four subcategories. The first is palmate feet, which have the first digit inverted and the second, third, and fourth digits are joined by webbing. We can find them ducks, gulls, geese, and other aquatic birds. This webbing functions similarly to a boat paddle in that it helps in turning and pushing the bird through the water.

The second type is semipalmate feet with smaller webbing, which may be seen in sandpipers, grouse herons, plovers, and avocets. Third, we have lobate feet. This type of foot has the first digit on the back and the second, third, and fourth digits on the front, which can be seen in grebes, coots, and phalaropes. Number four is totipalmate feet. These feet have all four digits attached to one other. You can observe them in pelicans, cormorants, frigatebirds, anhingas, cormorants, boobies, and other totipalmate birds.

Why does an ostrich have two toes?

The ostrich is the only bird in the world that has two toes. Other birds have four toes. The ostrich is so distinguished that it cannot even be compared to its own species as all other flightless birds run on three toes. Why do ostriches have two toes?

Similar to humans, feet are the foundation of the ostrich's body. At the same time, the primary role of your toes is to offer posture, balance, and support. Toes drive the ostrich's huge body forward when it walks, but toes also lengthen its step, allowing it to run quicker. Two toes help the ostrich perform two distinct functions.

The large toe of the ostrich supports most of its weight on the ground, while the smaller toe acts as an outrigger to keep the ostrich balanced, particularly during gradual walks. The reduced number of toes appears to be an adaptation that aids in sprinting, which is important for evading predators. Moreover, the ostrich's legs and feet are ideally positioned such that the ostrich's center of gravity rests on top of its legs. These thin legs of ostriches allow them to run quickly and easily.

Ostrich legs on sand

How big are ostrich feet?

This is hard to answer as we need further research to determine the precise ostrich feet size. However, we have brought you some probable theories.

It is observed that legs of the common ostrich are unfeathered and have bare skin, with the tarsus covered in scales. The tarsus is the lowest steep part of the leg which is red in males and black in females. The common ostrich's tarsus is the longest of any living bird, reaching 15-21 in (38-53.3 cm). The bird has only two toes on each foot, with the bigger inner toe having the nail. The nail on the outside toe is missing. And, get this, each foot has around 4 in (10 cm) long deadly claws, so predators beware! It is also said that ostriches' feet are used as a weapon in battle.

Ostriches can be seen running at speeds of up to 43 mph (69.2 kph) and can cover distances of 9.8-16.4 ft (3-5 m) in a single walk. While the other species, the Somali ostrich, is comparable in size. There's a new intriguing study found on the internet regarding the size of the leg based on the size of the ostrich in an image. Based on the estimated full ostrich height in the image, its leg should be 4.23 ft (1.29 m) long.

What can ostriches do with their feet?

Ever wonder why a sleeping bird doesn't tilt forward and tumble off the branch it's sitting on even in the middle of a nap? On a windy day, how do birds sit in trees or on power lines and don't get blown off? The answer lies in its feet.

Most birds use their feet for walking or perching; however, owls use their feet as weapons, ducks use feet for paddling, and parrots utilize their feet as hands. However, ostrich feet are so powerful that they can kick a lion to death. Yes, you read it right. Ostriches have powerful legs; they not only drive the ostrich wherever it wants to go, but these legs are also extremely useful in an ostrich's self-defense. Have you wondered why ostriches appear to bury their heads in the sand? It is actually one of its defense mechanisms when it sees any danger approaching.

Ostriches will lay low and push their long necks to the ground in an attempt to blend in with the color of sand and remain motionless. Since the head and neck are pale in color, ostrich plumage combines perfectly with the ground. As hardly any of the ostrich body is visible from a distance, this gives an impression that the ostrich has buried its head into the sand from a distance. Otherwise, if an ostrich is caught by a hungry predator such as a lion, leopard, cheetah, or hyena, the ostrich will kick it with great force! It might be new to you to learn that there are people who have ostrich feet. Yes, it is true. These people are members of the Vadoma tribe, also known as the Bantwana.

The Vadoma tribe, Africa's oldest hunter-gatherer tribe, lives in Zimbabwe's Kanyemba region, mainly in the Urungwe and Sipolilo districts. Here, it is common for these people to have ostrich feet; they believe that these ostrich toes help them climb trees. This illness is caused by a rare genetic disease known as Ectrodactyly syndrome, present from birth. Their condition is genetically transmitted through generations as they cannot marry people outside of their small group.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for ostrich feet, then why not take a look at ostrich eggs or what is a baby turkey called.

Written By
Deepthi Reddy

A content writer, travel enthusiast, and mother of two kids (12 and 7), Deepthi Reddy is an MBA graduate who has finally struck the right chord in writing. The joy of learning new things and the art of writing creative articles gave her immense happiness, which helped her write with more perfection. Articles about travel, movies, people, animals and birds, pet care, and parenting are a few of the topics written by her. Traveling, food, learning about new cultures, and movies have always interested her, but now her passion for writing is also added to the list.

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