For thousands and thousands of years, heavy-set, feather-flapping dinosaur-like birds have run over grasslands and deserts around the world. But they've never taken flight like all the tiny birds chirping around them. These are ratites, and the most interesting is the ostrich followed closely by the cassowary, brown kiwi, emu, rhea (South American ostrich-like birds), and more.
When you think of other animals with a long neck, the ability to run in the desert, and long eyelashes, all hallmarks of the ostrich, you may be able to guess the alias of the ostrich...the answer is below the picture.
And the answer to the ostrich's nickname from above is "camel bird!" But when you think of a camel, you probably think of shaggy fur--not feathers. When I saw ostriches up close, I loved their billowy feathers, almost like a smudge of smoke. The male's feathers are black and white while the female's plumes are gray and white. Below is a close-up of a feather along with a piece of ostrich shell. Indian Point Ostrich Ranch in Tehachapi, CA, sells unique jewelry made out of ostrich shell fragments.
Also at the ranch on the outskirts of Tehachapi, visitors get the chance to "bond" with an ostrich. I pictured ostriches gently galloping across the golden grass and coming to nibble politely at the food I had generously purchased. However, this image was partially shattered when our helpful ostrich guide gave us bowls with long, silver handles and warned us not to put our hands anywhere near the edge of the bowl. It is key when feeding an ostrich to hold on to the handle only!
We opened up a little gate (protecting the ostriches with a token entry system), and we immediately heard scratching of ancient feet from behind a protective fence separating us from the hungry diners. The birds cast large shadows over us and I pushed my bowl in, where all three ostriches quickly swarmed. With a cacophony of clinks of beaks on metal, they devoured all of the gravelly food. Meanwhile, my husband was attempting to help our daughter lift her bowl high enough since the ostriches were so tall. When my daughter got the bowl sort of halfway up their necks, they attacked the bowl spraying gravelly food back toward her hair. Although this did not feel quite like "bonding," we really enjoyed our experience with these forceful three ostriches at Indian Point Ostrich Ranch. Please visit if you are anywhere near Bakersfield, Tehachapi, or Mohave, CA. (Also if your child becomes too afraid of the ostrich-feeding experience, there is a great obstacle course for kids to try.)
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