On my recent overlanding trip to Africa we stumbled across an interesting ostrich love scene whilst in the Ngorongoro Crater. Ostriches have a very intriguing way of breeding so I thought I’d share with you some of the footage I took to immortalize the moment.
First off nonetheless, let’s talk about the major questions that revolve around the topic.
1. When do ostriches become sexually mature?
Sexual maturity for the ostrich usually occurs between the ages of 2-4. Females, however, reach maturity approximately 6 months before their male partners and are generally ready to reproduce in their third year.
2. Is there a specific breeding season for the ostrich?
While the breeding season may vary from one region to another, it typically occurs between the months of March or April, and may end up around September.
In this particular case though, the footage you are about to see was taken in December, so you shouldn’t necessarily stick with what the textbook says! 🙂
NB: Ostriches are polygamous, so the male copulates with more than one female in the harem.
3. How can you differentiate males from females?
It is relatively easy to distinguish the two sexes. Males are black with a grey neck (becomes bright pink in colour during the breeding season), predominantly white wings and a pale chestnut tail. Females, on the other hand, have a paler brownish colour.
One of the major reasons for this sexual dimorphism is that female ostriches lay their eggs during the day (and thus blend in nicely with their surrounding habitat), whereas males protect the eggs at night (they become almost undetectable when it is pitch black).
4. How many eggs can an ostrich lay?
Each female can lay 6-14 eggs, yet communal nests may have between 15 and 60 eggs altogether. When the eggs are ready for incubation, the dominant female discards the eggs from the weaker females and only keeps about 20 of them (in most cases).
5. How long does an ostrich egg take to incubate?
Incubation lasts between 35 and 45 days. Both the male and dominant female take turns to look after the eggs.
The Courtship: Ostrich Mating Dance
The courtship looks a bit like a “ballet” dance and is very funny to watch! When a male finds a suitable female, it sits on its hacks and starts waving its wings around and throwing its head from side to side.
The scene is often followed by a deep thumping sound, or he pumps up his neck and produces a loud booming noise.
The seduced female then walks with her head down and shakes her wings as a way to show her approval. Ultimately, the male approaches her, she sits down and the mating process can commence. 😉
Did you Know?
- Ostrich eggs can weigh up to 1.4 kg each and may feed as many as 12 people.
- One egg is equivalent to 20-24 chicken eggs.
- The eggshell is so thick that very few wild animals dare to eat them apart from some vulture species (like the Egyptian vulture), hyenas or jackals.
- In fact, the ostrich egg is so resistant that people can stand on it without damage.
- Ostriches are fast animals that can reach speeds of over 70 km/h for as long as 30 minutes.
- They can weigh anything between 60 and 130 kg.
I traveled with Acacia Africa on this African safari expedition. For more information on this amazing trip, consult the 58-day Ultimate African Overlander.