Home
Donate Sign up for e-network
CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good
ABOUT ACTION PROGRAMS SPECIES NEWSROOM PUBLICATIONS SUPPORT

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

io9, January 13, 2012

That ostrich over there? It is totally into you.
.By Robert T. Gonzalez

No, seriously. The next time you find yourself at an ostrich ranch (yes, they exist, and yes, they are everything you ever dreamed they could be and more), there's a pretty decent chance of you getting hit on by an ostrich.

Evidently, being raised entirely by humans (as is standard operating procedure on ostrich farms) has a significant impact on the disposition of the big, flightless birds. What kind of impact? The sort of impact that leads ostriches to believe that a human would make for a fine mate. Neurotic Physiology's Scicurious explains:

Courtship behavior in ostriches takes two forms. The male will do a little courtship dance, flapping his wings out, squatting down, and waving his neck back and forth. At this signal, if the female likes what she sees, she'll flap her wings backward, while bending her neck forward, and making a clapping noise with her beak. And it turned out that the farmers [at Hangland Farms, in the UK] were noticing MORE of this behavior when they were present. Was it possible that the farmers were turning the ostriches on???

Of course, scientists were called in to investigate, and a research team headed up by ostrich-expert Charles Deeming set about determining whether these ostriches were getting fresh with their human handlers:

...the scientists set up observation stations near several ostrich enclosures (the ostriches were grouped as one male to two females). They carefully kept THEMSELVES well out of sight and sound of the ostriches. Then they had humans walk by the enclosures, either relatively distant, or right up near the fence. As the humans walked by, the scientists watched the birds to see what they did.

And those ostriches...were happy to see the humans. Very happy. In fact, both female AND male ostriches solicited sex more than twice as often when the humans were nearby. 70% of the ostriches reliably hit on the humans when they were around. Turns out that being raised by humans can change what an ostrich is attracted to. The only exception to this was their control ostrich, a male which had been raised in Africa and then imported to the farm. He studiously ignored all humans, unless they got too close, in which case he was much more likely to be aggressive.

It sounds like Roy Croft really had it right when he wrote "I love you, not only for what you are, But for what I am when I am with you. Which is an ostrich."

On second thought, I don't think Croft ever wrote that last bit. But he probably should have.

This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton