Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Field Guides View....Spring is upon us!

"Spring is upon us and everyone is excited and waiting in anticipation for all the new arrivals.  Most animals will have their young during this time as the weather is mild, and we usually receive some spring and/or early summer rain.  That means that there is an abundance of food and shelter available for the youngsters as well as the parents who need to care for them. 
We have been spoiled throughout the year with new born Elephants and Buffalo, but now it’s time for the flood gates to open!
Leading the charge this year are the ostriches.  We have been entertained by their striking courtship displays for the past month or so, and have been counting the days (average 44 days incubation period) for the first chicks to hatch.  And finally it happened!  On my way back from the ‘bush’ I spotted a male and female with a clutch of 10 chicks, that probably hatched the previous day.  I was lucky enough to get a few shots of the new family taking a mid-morning siesta, a favourite activity at River Bend Lodge.
Ostriches are polygamous animals.  One dominant male will often mate with several females, all of which lay their eggs in the same nest-scrape, but only the dominant female will share the incubation responsibilities with the male.  The alpha female will also ensure that her own eggs are in the middle of the clutch of eggs, rotating the subordinate females’ eggs to the periphery, thereby ensuring her eggs receive the best incubation.  It also serves as added protection from predation.  The (grey) female will often incubate during the day, with the (black) male taking night shift due to camouflage.
Ostriches are not only the largest bird, but also lay the largest eggs in the world.  One ostrich egg is on average the size of 22 chicken eggs, and weigh in at 1.1kg.  The shell is 2-3mm thick.
Ostrich chicks are often called hedgehogs due to their ‘spiky’ down fashioning a resemblance to this small mammal often found in the same range as the ostrich.  This could possibly be a predator deterrent. 
We welcome our new arrivals and will keenly be monitoring their development."

Source: Beat about the bush: birds, Trevor Carnaby.

Written by  Mikey Mouton, field guide at River Bend Lodge.

Photos by Mikey Mouton

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