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First off, let’s get one thing straight. Ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand and think that they’re successfully hidden. That’s just a myth. In reality, ostriches dig a shallow hole in the ground and make their nests there.
So, where did this myth come from? Do ostriches really even bury their heads in the sand?
An Ostrich Nest
Birds make nests to house their eggs. Ostriches are birds too, and they also create nests. The problem is, ostriches can’t fly and have no way to get up into trees to make traditional nests that we normally imagine. The option they’re left with is to make a nest on the ground, but then their eggs would be in constant danger from predators. Instead, they dig a shallow hole in the ground and make their nests there. Once the ostriches have laid their eggs, they need to ensure that the eggs are evenly heated, so they put their heads into the hole to carefully turn the eggs.
Since ostriches have relatively small heads compared to their massive bodies, it’s easy to think (especially if you’re watching from a distance) that the big birds are actually burying their heads in the ground!
Another possible way that this old myth could have originated is in the way ostriches react when predators are nearby. They get really close to the ground and lay their necks and head flat on the ground. From a distance, the predator might think it’s looking at some kind of massive dark bush. The ostrich lays in this position, as still as possible, until the danger has passed. Again, from a distance, it’s easy to think that the ostrich is actually sticking its head in the sand, due to how small the head is and the fact that the neck and head are easily camouflaged against the sandy ground.
Therefore, the next time someone tells you to stop burying your head in the sand (implying that you’re avoiding a problem), let them know that ostriches aren’t actually dumb enough to do such a thing. Not only is that a ridiculous idea, but they would also risk getting suffocated. They’re actually just being good parents.
See? Ostriches are a lot smarter than you thought.