How fast does an ostrich run?

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The ostrich holds the title of fastest land bird, capable of reaching an impressive speed of 70 km/h, surpassing even the cheetah, recognized as the fastest land animal. How does it achieve this? What factors contribute to its exceptional speed? This article explores these questions in detail.

This captivating bird, of the species Struthio camelus, finds its natural habitat mainly in Africa. Feeding on plants, seeds, insects and sometimes small vertebrates, the ostrich is distinguished by its inability to fly. However, its feathers play an essential role in regulating its body temperature, and are a seductive attraction for its partners.

Endowed with the capacity to lay the largest eggs in the animal kingdom, weighing around 1.5 kg each, ostriches live in social groups comprising a dominant male, several females and their offspring. Ostriches communicate with other birds through their characteristic calls, whistles and wingbeats.

This text will then look at the ostrich’s most remarkable characteristic: its running speed. We’ll examine the anatomical and physiological elements that enable it to achieve such performance: powerful legs, adapted musculature, specific tendons and bones. We’ll also look at why it chose to run rather than fly, and how it adapted to its natural environment to survive.

The ostrich: speed champion among birds

The ostrich is the fastest bird on the planet, outstripping all its congeners in size and weight. Thanks to its exceptional anatomy, it exceeds the speed of many land animals.

What are the secrets of this prodigious speed? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this speed?

Let’s compare the ostrich with other land birds to find out.

Unique anatomy for exceptional speed

The ostrich attributes its phenomenal speed to unique anatomical features. Its long, muscular, powerful legs enable it to take steps over 5 meters long and 1.5 meters high, thanks to flexible knees and two-toed feet, one of which is equipped with a claw for added stability and power.

What’s more, its massive body is supported by a gigantic heart, representing 1.3% of its total weight, which promotes efficient blood circulation despite its size. Its unique diaphragm-less breathing system uses thoracic and abdominal muscles to ventilate the lungs, enabling sustained breathing during the race.

Its elongated, flexible neck, mostly featherless, is perfect for scanning its surroundings. A light head with a broad, flat beak, large lateral eyes offering a panoramic view and sensitive ears well hidden in the feathers optimize its orientation and perception of the environment.

Comparing the speed of ostriches and other land birds

The undisputed speed champion among land birds, the ostrich far outstrips other species such as the rhea, emu or cassowary. The South American rhea can reach 60 km/h, the Australian emu 50 km/h, the cassowary 48 km/h, while the ostrich can run at up to 90 km/h.

Impressive performances, but still below those of some land animals, such as the cheetah at 110 km/h. On the other hand, in the arena of aerial birds, the ostrich can’t compete with the peregrine falcon, champion of the skies at over 350 km/h, and other birds of prey with high flight speeds.

Ultimately, the ostrich dominates the terrestrial competition between birds, with a speed that places it even among the fastest land animals, although outstripped by the masters of the sky.

The secrets of ostrich speed

Considered the fastest bird on the planet, the ostrich is astonishingly fast. But what enables it to run so fast? Let’s explore the mysteries surrounding the ostrich’s exceptional speed, by examining its remarkable legs, the biomechanics of its running and the influence of evolution on its speed.

The ostrich’s incredible legs: the driving force behind its speed

The key to the ostrich’s speed lies in its strong, muscular legs, the longest among birds, which reach around 1.5 meters, or almost half its total height. With only two toes per foot, one of which is equipped with a claw, the ostrich maximizes its grip, gaining power and stability.

Supple, agile knees facilitate jumps and changes of direction, while light, hollow bones increase endurance. The concentration of muscles in the upper part of its legs enables it to take strides over 5 meters long and 1.5 meters high. The elasticity of its tendons, acting like springs, gives it the ability to bounce back with each stride, saving energy.

The biomechanics of each stride

The ostrich adopts a unique running style, the double-suspension gallop, where both legs leave the ground simultaneously with each step. This mechanism enables it to cover a greater distance more quickly, while minimizing ground impact forces, which are particularly high at high speeds.

Depending on the circumstances, the ostrich is able to adjust the frequency and length of its steps, as well as the angle of its feet, knees and body, to optimize its trajectory and stability. These abilities give it a considerable advantage in dodging predators, thanks to tight turns, precise acceleration and braking.

The impact of evolution on ostrich speed

The ostrich is the result of millions of years of evolution, during which it became an outstanding runner. Its flight-capable ancestors gradually gave way to running in the face of environmental change, notably the retreat of forests in favor of savannahs.

This mutation made running more strategic than flying for escaping predators and searching for food. The ostrich has refined its anatomical and physiological characteristics to run faster and longer, while developing exceptional vision and hearing to anticipate danger. The ostrich is a remarkable example of race-based evolutionary adaptation.

Adapting to the environment: why does the ostrich choose to run?

Why does the ostrich, the world’s fastest land bird, prefer to run rather than fly? What are the advantages of this alternative, and what are the difficulties? How does it exploit its speed to thrive in its natural environment?

Here, we explore the ostrich’s evolutionary choice of speed over flight, its survival and escape strategies, and how it interacts with its predators.

Speed or flight: an evolutionary compromise

The ostrich is a remarkable example of a bird unable to fly, opting instead to run at high speed. This choice is explained by an evolutionary compromise between the two modes of locomotion.

Flying, despite its advantages such as speed of movement and the ability to explore new territories, requires significant energy expenditure and abundant food. Added to this are physical constraints such as the need for developed wings and feathers, making flying birds more prone to injury and disease. Running, on the other hand, is less demanding in terms of food and energy, and enables the development of physical attributes that increase resistance and efficiency in arid, predator-rich environments.

By favoring running, ostriches have adapted perfectly to the African savannah, gaining in performance and efficiency at the expense of their ability to fly.

Escape and survival techniques: Speed for survival

The ostrich’s speed is its first line of defense. It enables it to evade predators and cover great distances in search of food and water. Its long legs enable it to move efficiently over long distances with a minimum of effort.

But speed isn’t the ostrich’s only survival strategy. Ostriches can also camouflage themselves in vegetation or on the ground, becoming virtually invisible to predators. In dangerous situations, it can use its legs, equipped with powerful claws, to defend itself effectively. Ostriches are also remarkably hardy, able to withstand extreme temperatures and subsist without water for long periods, thanks to their optimized respiratory and digestive systems.

Ostriches versus predators: a sprint for life

Ostriches are constantly confronted by a variety of predators, including lions, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards and eagles. These predators adapt their hunting methods to the ostrich, some hunting in groups while others prefer the solitary approach.

In this hostile environment, the ostrich relies on its speed, camouflage and defensive techniques. Its ability to run quickly makes it more difficult for predators, while its camouflage and physical strength increase its chances of survival in the face of danger.

Thanks to these abilities, the ostrich is resilient and capable of protecting itself and escaping threats in its environment.

In this article, we explore the astonishing speed of the ostrich, the fastest land bird. It has been revealed that the ostrich can reach the incredible speed of 90 km/h, surpassing the cheetah, known as the fastest animal on the planet. This performance is all the more remarkable given the ostrich’s imposing size and stature.

The ostrich’s incredible speed is attributed to its unique anatomical structure, optimized biomechanics and adaptive evolution. The ostrich mainly uses its phenomenal speed as a defense mechanism to escape its many predators in the wild.

The ostrich’s choice of running rather than flying underlines a fascinating evolutionary process, enabling it to adapt perfectly to its environment. This bird therefore represents a captivating subject for the study of adaptation and survival.



How fast does an ostrich run?


Ostriches can run at speeds of up to 70 km/h. They are the largest and fastest of all land birds, capable of maintaining speeds of 50 km/h over long distances.