There are about 40 species of flightless birds on this planet and the ostrich (Struthio camelus) has to be the biggest joke of them all. Everything about this awkward avian is a study in deep irony.
For example: The ostrich made a valiant effort to rise above its flying disability by becoming the world’s fastest-running bird. On level ground, it can hit a top speed of 40 miles per hour. One can only imagine the look on the ostrich’s face the moment it realized the cheetah is one of its natural predators. When the world’s fastest land animal is chasing you at 70 miles an hour, the ability to outrun other birds must offer very little in the way of consolation. Especially when other birds are flying away from said cheetah.
Oh Struthio camelus, will you ever learn?
Here’s another one: Due in large part to its inability to fly (or run fast enough), the ostrich was nearly hunted into extinction by the middle of the 20th century. Today, ostriches are no longer on the endangered species list. But only because they’re being farmed on a worldwide, industrial scale for ostrich burgers, ostrich leather goods and ostrich feather dusters.
Another irony: though their big adaptation is speed, ostriches look really ridiculous when they run, like old women being chased from a Bridge game. Whatever speed they achieve is far outweighed by the fact that they look so stupid. Gym class is a hellish memory for many an adult ostrich.
Saved from extinction. Dig in.
It’s also amusing that the one thing ostriches are most ridiculed for is something they don’t even do. When faced with a threat, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. Nope, doesn’t happen. Totally apocryphal. Check Google. The best scientific evidence suggests that what ostriches do when faced with a threat is get devoured or turned into a $2,000 Hermes purse, or both.
Fight or flight? Let’s be purses.
Tempting as it is to fail the ostrich, we must consider a mitigating circumstance. The fossil record demonstrates that ostrich-like birds date back to the mid-Eocene epoch around 44 million years ago (mya). Obviously, their survival relied heavily on dumb luck and fortuitous twists of fate.
Their luck and strange-but-quick running ability make the ostrich the Forrest Gump of birds, and its grade reflects its semi-endearing characteristics.