Ostrich head in sand

Alternate:
Ostriches bury their heads in the sand

Current:
Ostriches don't bury their heads in the sand

Nothing to see here

Are ostriches getting a bad rap?

The general consensus is that when they get scared, they react by sticking their heads in the sand. This idea is very widespread, particularly in cartoons which people see when they are children, and hence get this image reinforced many times whilst they are young.

A moments thought would show this is unlikely, if for no other reason than it would prove an evolutionary disadvantage since predators would quickly latch onto this behaviour and wipe out the entire species.

Sometimes from a distance it might appear an ostrich has it's head in the sand, but it is only reaching down to feed.

Ostriches are not only fast runners, but can actually hold their own in a fight, so the idea they can't handle themselves when stressed is a little wide of the mark.

A strange reaction

There are so many reasons why this myth is untrue. They couldn't keep their heads down for long because for a start, they couldn't breathe. They do turn ground over with their beaks when burying their eggs, but don't keep it there long, and clearly this is when they feel safe enough to build a place for their eggs to lie undisturbed, i.e. definitely not where there might be danger.

When an ostrich senses danger, its first reaction is to run away, since their long legs and powerful muscles make it a very fast runner indeed. Some have been recorded at nearly 50mph! Of course, it cannot fly, so this strength has evolved to be much greater than flying birds by way of compensation.

It's kick can kill a lion, and it's clawed feet rip rhino hide. However, if it's in a situation where it can't run away, it flops to the ground and plays dead. Sometimes, if seen this way, it might look as if it's body is flat and it's head is buried, but again this is not what is happening.