Zoo celebrates ostrich baby boom
A zoo is celebrating after a male ostrich became father to eight chicks.
Boomer is father to the flightless youngsters which have hatched from eggs laid by the two female ostriches at Marwell Wildlife near Winchester, Hampshire.
The chicks currently measure just 10ins but will grow to about 120ins.
Ian Goodwin, senior section manager for the ostriches, said: "Boomer has a reputation for being very protective of his ladies and young, and he has now successfully raised in excess of 20 chicks.
"After an incubation period of around six weeks all the eggs hatched earlier this month, and visitors can now see six chicks in the paddock and two in the African Valley."
Mr Goodwin explained that female ostriches can lay around 12 eggs within a few days and up to 100 in a year. He said "They prefer to gather them into a large clutch of eggs from several females, keeping the eggs in suspended animation until they decide to incubate them.
"This means that all the chicks hatch together within 24 to 48 hours, so they are all mobile at the same time. The ostriches use the colour of their feathers to help protect the eggs from predators, like wild dogs, lion and leopards.
"The grey brown females sit on them during the day and the dark male does the night shift. The chicks are then jointly raised by all the adults. Marwell's two female ostrich, which live in the paddock with the Grevy's zebra and Scimitar horned oryx, laid their eggs from mid March through to May."
Ostriches, which are native to the savannas and grasslands of Africa, lay the world's largest egg. At around 30 times the volume of a chicken's egg, they are sometimes used by Africans living in the Kalahari region as water containers.
The shell is an eighth of an inch thick and extremely strong. It can even withstand a human standing on it without cracking.