Ratites are big, flightless birds like the ostrich, emu, cassowary, rhea and kiwi. Ratites always walk or run everywhere, only using their small wings for balance and for show.
The ostrich is the biggest living bird, towering up to 2.75 m in height and weighing over 150 kg.
To escape a lion, the ostrich can hurtle over the African savannah grasslands, where it lives, at speeds of 60 km/h — faster than a racehorse. Even when the ostrich tires, its strong legs can still deliver a massive kick.
Ostriches have only two toes on each foot — unlike the rhea of South America which has three.
The ostrich lays the largest egg — almost as big as a football.
The kiwi of New Zealand is the smallest ratite, no bigger than a chicken. It has fur-like feathers and is the only bird with nostrils at the tip of its bill, which it uses to sniff out worms and grubs.
The rare kakapo parrot of New Zealand could fly once, but it lost the power of flight because it had no natural predators — until Europeans introduced dogs and cats to New Zealand.
The dodo was a flightless bird that once lived on islands such as Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It was wiped out in the 17th century when its eggs were eaten by pigs and monkeys imported by Europeans.
The emu of Australia is the best swimmer of any flightless bird. Ostriches can swim well, too. AI The cassowary lives in the forests of tropical Australia and New Guinea. It has a crest which it uses like a crash helmet as it charges through the undergrowth.
Ostriches live on the grasslands of Africa and nest in holes scooped out of the ground. The male scoops out the hole and leads several females to it to lay their eggs. Two toes with very sharp toenails. The emu of Australia is the world’s second largest bird, growing up to 1.7 m tall and weighing up to 1 kg.
The biggest bird ever is now extinct — the flightless elephant bird of Madagascar grew up to 4.5 m tall (taller than two grown men).