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an order of the ratite birds. The wings are underdeveloped, and the feet didactyl. The feathers are distributed over the body continuously (without apteria).
The sole species, the ostrich (Struthio camelus), is the largest extant bird, attaining 2.44 m in height and 136 kg in weight. The bill is flat, and the eyes have thick eyelashes. The male is black, with white wings and tail; the female is brown.
The ostrich is widely distributed throughout Africa, except the north, where it has been extirpated; before 1941 it was found in Syria and Arabia. Fossil ostriches have been found in the steppes of the USSR from the Ukraine to Transbaikalia. Ostriches inhabit deserts and steppes, sometimes with thickets; they usually occur in parties of five or six birds or, less frequently, in parties of 30 to 40. They are polygamous. The male mates with three to five females, each of which lays six to eight eggs in a common nest. The eggs measure 12.5 by 15 cm in size. Oviposition continues over a period of about 18 days; the incubation period is five to six weeks. The female incubates the eggs during the day, and the male incubates them during the night. One-month-old birds can run at speeds of 50 km per hour. The diet consists primarily of plant matter, such as shoots, seeds, and fruit, but also includes small animals. Previously, when there was a great demand for ostrich plumes, ostriches were bred on farms. In southern Australia, ostriches that were once bred on such farms, and their descendants, are encountered in the wild. In the USSR semido-mesticated ostriches are kept at the Askaniia-Nova Preserve.
A. I. IVANOV