Have you seen an ostrich? Giant bird roams Outback

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Ostriches in the Outback
This ostrich was spotted on the Birdsville Track north of Marree. PIC: Lisa Herbert

While grey nomad twitchers instinctively reach for their binoculars when looking out for endangered birds like yellow-tufted honeyeaters, hooded plovers, and fairy terns … they certainly don’t need to do so to spot perhaps the rarest of them all.

Since being introduced into South Australia in the 1890s, and then again in the 1970s, very few  ostriches have survived after being released into the wild. However, they are out there … as traveller Lisa Herbert will attest after snapping this feathered giant on the Birdsville Track north of Marree.

Just a handful of the flightless African birds, which can grow to be almost three metres tall, still roam the Red Centre after attempts to farm them for feathers and meat failed.

“One of the problems ostriches had in Australia was actually breeding well — they had a lot of infertility problems with the eggs,” said SA Arid Lands’ manager of scientific services Rob Brandle. “Because they’re quite a long-lived bird, they do survive in areas for a fair while and they’re quite mobile as well.”

The ostrich has been able to survive in the Australian Outback because the climate is similar to Africa’s.

“Maybe we’re a bit drier here overall, which is maybe why they don’t do as well as something like emus,” Mr Brandle said.

With the ostriches’ low fertility rate and extremely small population, Mr Brandle told the ABC the birds were unlikely to see out the century in the Outback.

“There’s not a viable population, so I don’t think they’re going to breed up and go feral,” he said. “There could be occasional successful breeding of them — the adult birds lay a lot of eggs.”

Because of their scarcity, ostriches are a sought after species for ‘twitchers’ to tick off their bucket list.

“There’d probably be a few birders wandering around the outback trying to find ostriches, so they can tick it off their list,” BirdsSA president, John Gitsham, told the ABC. “If you happen to find one, enjoy it for what it is, appreciate that they’re magnificent, and probably the largest bird species in the world.”

  • Have you seen an ostrich in the Outback? What’s the rarest bird you’ve spotted on your travels? Comment below.

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