True facts about the male ostrich’s mating dance

Several readers sent me this new video by Ze Frank, which is shorter than his other videos and also has unique music (Ze Frank wrote  the music, too).  I had no idea that ostriches mate this way, and it’s interesting to contemplate what the female is looking for here when she’s “choosing”. (I don’t think it’s “beauty”.)


  1. Posted January 8, 2020 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. JezGrove
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    How odd – talk about “shake a tail feather”!

  3. boudiccadylis
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t realise they had such “real” wings. Most interesting.

    • Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Every bone and muscle and feather designed around a birds’ flying wing. Fused wrist bones and hand bones and so on.

  4. Posted January 8, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The ostrich is one bizarre creature. The matriarch of a harem of females incubates, with the male, all of the females’ eggs in a communal nest. The harem females are free to drop off their eggs in the communal nest and skedaddle, leaving the matriarch to watch over the clutch of 15-20 eggs. This might seem foolish for the matriarch to be so accommodating but it’s thought she can recognize her own eggs amongst the others and can roll out the other females’ eggs when a predator comes calling. In an environment where few eggs survive and fewer become adults, this strategy ensures that perhaps her offspring will at least be the last to be eaten and might have a sporting chance to make it.
    The communal brood also ensures the dominant matriarch’s chicks (Who presumably have inherited their mother’s dominant physical traits) will be surrounded by lesser, weaker, slower chicks that probably will be first to fall prey to predation. Crazy like a fox, this ostrich hen.

    • Posted January 8, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      That is very interesting. But wouldn’t it make sense for the harem females to look after their own eggs given that their eggs and hatchlings will be used as cannon fodder by the matriarch? Though I guess being free of brooding duty has its advantage.

      • loren russell
        Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        The male comes with the territorial male. HE stays and helps, the ‘matriarch’ appears to defend the nest against the subordinate females to some degree — it would be interesting if she accepts the others’ egg-laying [for reasons guessed at above] or if they are sneaking, perhaps with collaboration by the male?

      • Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        It’s dangerous business sitting on that nest in the middle of the savanna. (The males are black presumably because they have night duty). There must be some trade off for the harem females to avoid dangerously incubating eggs with the lesser (but not zero)chance of having one of your offspring survive.

        • Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it is dangerous, but what I do not understand is the reason for the specialization. The matriarch specializes in the dangerous job while the other females flee. Why does that specialization happen?

          • Posted January 8, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Which is better–live one year and have ten chicks survive in that year(matriarch)or live ten years and have one chick survive each year (harem female)?

            • Posted January 8, 2020 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

              I guess they would be about equal in fitness terms, but I’m not sure that explains the phenomenon. To put it another way, why don’t other birds have a communal nest and matriarch given they face nest predators too? Is it because ostriches cannot fly, or something to do with their environment, I wonder? Do all ratites do this? Just curious.

              • Posted January 8, 2020 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

                Ok I see what you mean. Don’t know about other ratites. May be a consequence of male availability. The matriarch needs the male to incubate the chicks at night but there might not be enough males to go around because they are more vulnerable due to their coloration or the fact that there on their knees doing that awful dance in the middle of the damn savanna.

              • Posted January 8, 2020 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

                Thanks. That dance was not so bad. I’ve seen modern dance that is worse.

              • Posted January 8, 2020 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

                But most likely I think it has to do with their extreme vulnerability. Only 10% of nests survive and only 10% of chicks in those nests become adults. By being able to concentrate the chicks into a large gaggle rather than dispersing them into smaller nests, must have some advantage, the same way quail find advantages by grouping into coveys. Just speculating here, though. Don’t know the textbook answer.

    • Posted January 8, 2020 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      That’s one of the great things about this website — the comments have information like this. Thanks!

  5. rickflick
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Ze Frank is one of the most amusing guys around. He has a child-like sense of humor I like. Plus, you always learn stuff.

  6. merilee
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink


  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Chicks did a dude can trip the light fantastic.

    No mystery there.

    • merilee
      Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Without tripping…

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 8, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Why Arthur Murray made a killing. 🙂

        • merilee
          Posted January 8, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink


  8. Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    This one was different!
    I had wished that he would do these, or some of these, w/o obscenities so I may link to them in a class web site. For humor + some education, since his narrations often get around to providing some useful details.

  9. merilee
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t understand the female’s last mutterings??

    • Peter N
      Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      I listened on good headphones at several playback speeds but I still couldn’t understand a single word — fortunately a couple of commenters on the YouTube page revealed the secret: “If these kids are idiots I’m gonna track you down”.

    • Posted January 8, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t either, but according to the comments, it’s “If these kids are idiots, I’m tracking you down.”

      • merilee
        Posted January 8, 2020 at 5:17 pm | Permalink


  10. Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    I bet it feels like “beauty” to the female ostrich though.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 8, 2020 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      That’s qualia for you. 😎

  11. mikeb
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Ah make meself rediculous 4 U.

  12. Posted January 8, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that the male starts up his dance again (and, if Ze Frank is to be believed, his inner dialogue) during the act, while the female carries on eating grass.

  13. April Stevens
    Posted January 8, 2020 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Was a great video although he didn’t do his iconic that’s how…do.
    Also was not aware how deep Frank can be. I really enjoyed his Ted talk on if you are a human. Keep up the good work. That’s how Frank do.

    • merilee
      Posted January 9, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Oh, yeah, you’re right April, there was no “That’s how these birds do”, which I get such a kick out of😻

  14. Neil Wolfe
    Posted January 9, 2020 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I really enjoy the True Facts videos for their clever narration and editing, but this is just a video of birds humping with a silly song in the background. It’s amusing but there really isn’t much here. I hope this is a one-off and not the direction Ze Frank is going.

  15. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 9, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Pan-sike-ism or this video – such a difficult decision.

    The song is also stuck in my head. Did he say “I spell ostrich with a “D””?

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