Ostrich

n. A large bird to which (for its sins, doubtless) nature has denied that hinder toe in which so many pious naturalists have seen a conspicuous evidence of design. The absence of a good working pair of wings is no defect, for, as has been ingeniously pointed out, the ostrich does not fly.

Ostrich  (Struthio ). A bird which was once included with the cassowaries, emu, rhea and apteryx in a distinct order, but which is probably better regarded as forming a separate family. Its nearest allies appear to be the rheas of South America.

An adult male may reach a height of eight feet, the neck being about three feet long. The special peculiarity is the reduction of the toes to two, these corresponding to the third and fourth of the typical foot. The foot and tarsus are both stout; the head is small, with large eyes, and short, broad, and depressed beak; the wing and tail feathers are large and soft, and have broad, equal vanes; while the long neck is practically naked. The feathers are without an aftershaft.

The true ostrich is a native of Africa. All are flightless birds, and as the wing muscles are reduced there is no keel on the breastbone. The African ostrich has but two toes, the others three. The rheas and the emus may be dismissed with mere mention, the rheas furnishing the feathers used in feather dusters. The African ostriches furnish the well-known plumes and are bred for the purpose, the export of feathers from South Africa amounting to over five million dollars a year. There are now ostrich farms in South America, California, Arizona and Florida. The eggs are laid in the sand and in nature are incubated by the heat of the sun. The plumes are cut (not pulled out) once a year.