One of Australia’s oldest ostriches, Frank, is celebrating his 27th birthday at Werribee Open Range Zoo this weekend, and it’s inspiring his frisky flock-mates to bust out some impressive dance moves.
Whilst Frank is basking in the warmer weather in the lead-up to his special day, the Zoo’s younger male ostriches are displaying their natural springtime courtship behaviour, which includes dropping their bodies to the ground, shaking their wings and tail, and swaying their heads and necks from side to side.
Savannah Keeper Katie Jones said the introduction of four young males to the Zoo’s flock of ostriches a couple of years ago had inspired a flurry of movement amongst the group.
“For a long time, we had only older male ostriches out on the savannah, so when the younger males arrived and started dancing in front of us, we were truly impressed,” Ms Jones said “At over two metres tall, they tower above the keepers and then crouch down into a graceful display that is equally beautiful and intimidating.
“The dancing indicates dominance and territorial behaviour as well as courtship. Ostriches are typically nomadic but around breeding season we see an increase of territorial displays.”
Ms Jones said birthday boy Frank’s dancing days had dwindled in his older years, but he is known as being an easy-going ostrich, who has developed a brilliant ‘bromance’ with fellow aged savannah resident, Pinky.
“Ostriches have a lifespan of 40–50 years, so our older boys – Frank and Pinky – are roughly middle-aged,” Ms Jones said. “They’re much happier doing their own thing, leaving the dancing to the testosterone filled younger boys.”
The ostrich is the world’s largest bird, standing as tall as 2.7 metres. They cannot fly, but use their wings like rudders to balance, steer and change direction. They are also the world’s fastest flightless bird and can reach speeds of 70 kilometres an hour and cover as much as five metres in a single stride.
While Werribee Open Range Zoo is temporarily closed to members and visitors, animal lovers at home can stay connected with the Zoo’s animals through Zoos Victoria’s live stream cameras at www.zoo.org.au/animals-at-home.