KIDEPO – A young man stands close to a large towering bird that is visibly taller than him, the bird’s smell enriches the air along the dust road.
This place is a transition from a Narus Valley after an eventful day wandering through Kidep River via acacia and grass which is a splendid liberation of Kidepo Valley national park.
The famous Kidepo valley national park is an excellent home for seeing a wide array of common birds and specials, including the sought-after Jackson’s hornbill, endemic Karamoja Apalis and the towering Ostrich.
The common ostrich [Struthio Camelus], or simply ostrich, is a species of large flightless bird native to Africa.
Mr Stephen Nyadru, the assistant warden in charge of tourism says the Karamoja Ostrich is one of two extant species of Ostriches, the only living members of the genus struthio in the ratite order of birds.
He adds that the other is the Somali Ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes), which was recognised as a distinct species by Birdlife international in 2014 having been previously considered a very distinctive subspecies of ostrich.
“Kidepo valley national park marks the extreme ends where the arid conditions of North Africa meet grasslands of East Africa. Kidepo Valley national park is an intersection where unique bird species from different geographic zones meet,” said Mr Nyadru.
The birding tours in Kidepo valley national park have high possibilities of sighting famous towering Ostriches.
Mr Nyadru said to many visitors on the tour of Uganda, Kidepo valley national park has exact features of the authentic African wilderness; flat plains in scenic landscape and land features where beautiful wildlife species spread into all corners of the grasslands and mingle at will.
Mr Phillip Akoronymoe, a birder and a local tour guide at Kidepo valley national park said if you are looking to get a feel of nature, but you don’t want to get so far from the touch of birds, go for a nature walk at Kidepo Valley National Park.
He said a nature walk into the beautiful Kidepo gifts the visitors an opportunity to spot wildlife within the adjacent valleys gives you an opportunity to see Ostriches although at a distance.
He explained that a visit the Kanangorok hot springs a natural spa in the wilderness brings you in touch with herds of Ostriches.
“In the dry season when River Kidepo National Park is all quiet and dead, many visitors on nature walk barefoot into the Kidepo valley sands and get a chance to watch Ostriches at looking for water in the valley,” said Mr Akoronymoe.
He explained that Kidepo valley national park is a less trampled chaste and many travelers on tour into Uganda cannot resist the temptation to wander into the wilderness, explore nature and make personal discoveries.
He revealed that the Struthio Camelus, Ostrich is found only in Kidepo valley national park in northeastern Uganda and that it is one of the endemic birds of Africa.
He explained that this huge flightless bird has got a small head, wings and huge legs with two pointing fingers.
According to Mr Akoronymoe Africa has got only one species of the ostrich which is further subdivided into two races, Nominate and masaicus.
He said both sexes have got an average height of 2.5M with males having brown eyes, white wings black body feathers, tail, pink neck and legs and that a female ostrich is brown with pinkish-brown legs.
“And the chicks have blackheads, necks, stripped buff and they are considered mature at 3-4 years. Their wings grow up to 2 metres and are used for mating, shade chicks, convert heat and help in changing direction while running,” said Mr Akoronymoe.
He said unlike other birds, the ostrich has got three stomachs and can excrete urine from dung, it has no teeth and that this is the reason why it swallows pebbles to help them digest the food and an adult ostrich can carry up to 1 kg of stones.
He said the male reproductive organ is only visible when the ostrich is passing out waste and females become fertile at six years.
He revealed that Ostriches are first runners unlike other birds; they move at 70km/hr. with 5metres per stride and also walk 4km/hr.
“Ostriches love dust bathing and at times are seen putting their heads in sand with the rest of the body outside, male ostriches have vibrant calls that are sometimes mistaken to be lions roar and can be heard in 1km distance.” Mr Akoronymoe added.
He said the ostrich lays up to 15 eggs per month and they lay mainly in the dry seasons of February to June and that their eggs are the largest of all the other birds with a 15cm diameter and weigh as much as two dozens of eggs.
He said the male ostrich prepares or digs the ground with a 1metre wide hole to cover its wide body and then pours there sand on which the eggs are laid.
“And the sand is meant to provide extra warmth for the eggs to hatch. All the female ostriches lay their eggs in one hole/nest and these eggs are incubated by a dominant female during day time and by the female at night,” added Mr Akoronymoe.
He explained that the incubation takes 35-45 days and the male is responsible for teaching, defending and feeding the chicks. In the first 6 days, these chicks don’t feed on anything but only the york in their body systems and after that begin with feeding on sand grains.
Mr Johnson Masereka, the Kidepo valley national park warden says tourists to Kidepo valley park should take time and visit these fascinating birds in Kidepo, learn about their breeding tales, daily life and origin.
“But you must keep away from their eggs as these birds can be so aggressive when they notice a stranger near their eggs,” said Mr Masereka.
Facts about Ostrich in Uganda
-Ostrich is the largest living bird species on earth and lays the largest eggs than any other bird.
-An ostrich lays up to 15 eggs a month, and each egg is laid after every two days and they lay eggs during dry months of the year, usually in February and June. The male ostrich prepares the ground for laying eggs and will dig a hole of about 1 meter wide and 1 foot deep and later fills it with lake sand on which eggs are laid to generate warmth that would enable hatching.
-It is distinctive in its appearance with a long neck and legs, and also has the fastest land speed than any other bird.
-This bird can run as fast as 70 km/ hr.
-Ostrich is also so vulnerable to predators and when threatened can run although they have powerful long legs that can be a formidable weapon capable of killing humans and potential predators like lions with a forward kick.
-It has a body size ranges from 1.8-2.75 m and weighs up to 155 kg and mostly found in savannah areas, in the semi-arid and sometimes desert areas.
-Ostrich don’t have teeth and therefore swallow pebbles to grind their food and an adult ostrich can carry about 1kg of stones at any one time and can go without drinking for several days surviving on metabolic water and moisture in ingested roots, seeds and insects but enjoy liquid water and frequently take a bath where water is available.
-Ostrich possess very large eyes measuring almost 5 cm across allowing them to spot predators like lions within a long distance.