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natureNaturenatureanimals

Ostriches Are So Horny For Humans It Interferes With Their Mating

Certain movements can indicate that they are into you.

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockJul 18 2022, 10:38 UTC
ostriches running towards camera
Not an ideal situation for anyone involved. Image credit: bruna-nature/shutterstock.com

Ostriches don't have a reputation as the smartest of animals, largely due to their brains being about the size of a walnut. While they aren't as stupid as their reputation implies, they have been observed regularly doing something in captivity that doesn't help with the stereotype: attempting to mate with humans.

In the early 1990s, ostrich farmers noticed that their birds would conduct more courtship behaviors when humans were around. The male animals would flap their wings out in a display, squat, and wave their neck around in their mating dance, as if they were a lot hornier when their farmers were nearby. 

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Scientists wondered what was going on, and conducted some structured observations of animals at two UK farms – from nearby and from a distance – to see how their mating behavior differed. Their results were published in the journal British Poultry Science, and won an Ig Nobel Prize.

"During near observations there was a significantly greater frequency of soliciting by females compared with distant observations during both years of observations," the team wrote in their study

"The birds directed these courtship behaviours towards the human observer adjacent to the perimeter although some females did not appear to respond."

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At one farm, 68 percent of the birds displayed to humans.

"There was a high incidence of courtship display by ostriches to humans, thereby confirming casual observations that adult breeding ostriches displayed to humans," the authors concluded. "The observation that birds on 2 farms show courtship behaviours, together with casual observations at other farms in Britain and in southern Africa suggest that human-induced courtship is a widespread phenomenon."

The team believed that mating displays aimed at humans interfere with mating between the animals. Males may be making displays towards females of their own species on fewer occasions, resulting in the females refusing to squat for the males' mating attempts. 

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Though the vast majority of ostriches were losing out on mating opportunities due to this apparent attraction to human farmers, there was one bird that made the most of the situation.

"One male ostrich was observed apparently taking advantage of female courtship behaviour directed towards humans by mounting the female each time she dropped to the ground in response to a human standing nearby," the team wrote. "The behaviour of this pair was atypical."


natureNaturenatureanimals
  • tag
  • sex,

  • animals,

  • birds,

  • mating,

  • ostrich,

  • Ig Nobel Prize,

  • weird and wonderful

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