Stealing Ostrich Eggs
The birds arrived in early December, their presence changed things a lot. Each evening large booming calls of the males punctuated the nighttime silence proclaiming his territory to other nearby birds.
Sutton and Big Hen, the first birds to arrive at our place.
These adults are large and aggressive, especially during mating and laying season. When he notices someone coming too close the male begins an aggressive display, first showing irritation at the threat by standing tall, and spreading his wings wide. Holding his head high, his mouth opens wide emitting a hissing warning to the invader. Readying to dial the aggressiveness up in a moment he keeps his mouth open and begins a fretful dance, sort of like a runner warming up, placing one foot on the ground, then the other quicker and quicker, dialing up the frenzy until he launches himself full-force onto the intruder.
Running at the threat the male will leverage his prehistoric legs forward, straight ahead, trying to snag the infiltrator with his giant nasty toenail, so deadly it can disembowel a person.
Called kantling, this testosterone -driven display of Sutton's is part of the mating dance.
Notice the feather loss on Big Hen's back. That's caused by Sutton's not-so-gentle clawing along her back, a thing males do to align themselves correctly during copulation.
When feeding the adults we did so only after carefully opening the barn door and pouring feed from a sack into a feeder right next to the door. Similarly, we hosed water into a large tub next to the feeder, trying to avoid going in there with the grown-ups.
The day after Christmas I went out to feed. There was a large white egg on the ground, but because the male was so aggressive, we were not quite sure how we could gather it up
Looking around the ranch I found an old half-inch thick piece of plywood four feet wide and eight feet long. I screwed two metal handles onto the piece, and cut some eye sites so I could hold the board and walk towards the egg while intimidating the male with my four feet by eight-foot plywood stature collecting the egg without incident. Now Mary and I needed to incubate this three-pound egg.
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