Mating Ostriches

posted in: Courtship-Mating | 4

Willis’ recent foray into the African plains in Kenya saw him returning with a rare image of a male Ostrich (Struthio camelus) caught with his penis exposed (left). This is one of a few bird species in which the male has a penis. And this is displayed prominently only during courtship.

Willis was on a morning game drive when the guide spotted what looked like Ostriches in the distant horizon. Moving closer, they realised that a pair of Ostriches was in the midst of a mating dance. Another female was loitering nearby. By the time the party arrived nearer to the birds, the female was in a submissive posture, indicating that she was ready for copulation. The male then mounted her, fluffing his wings and swaying his puffed out brightly coloured neck (below). Copulation lasted barely a minute. And according to Folch (1992), the male grunts and groans throughout copulation.

Gill (2007) has this to say: “The fully extended, bright red penis of an ostrich may be 20 centimeters long. The mating ritual of these large flightless birds is a dramatic event: intromission and ejaculation last a full minute.”

Folch, A., 1992. Family Struthionidae (Ostrich). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 1. Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 76-82.
2. Gill, F. B., 2007. Ornithology. W. H. Freeman & Co., New York. 758 pp.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.


4 Responses

  1. Wow! 20 cm hah? No wonder the ostrich was red in the face exposing it to Willie!

  2. […] certain birds like ostriches LINK, geese and cassowaries have a phallus that is inserted into the cloaca of the female, thus ensuring […]

  3. […] balancing on the female’s back to pass on his sperms to the female. For land birds like ostriches LINK, emus and curassows, this is not a problem (above). The female can crouch on the ground and remain […]

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