Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/271

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263
ENEMIES OF THE OSTRICH.

his shoulders, takes the bottom part of the neck in his right hand, and his bow and poisoned arrows in his left. Such as the writer has seen were most perfect mimics of the ostrich, and at a few hundred yards' distance it is not possible for the eye to detect the fraud. This human bird appears to pick away at the verdure, turning the head as if keeping a sharp look-out, shakes his feathers, now walks, and then trots till he gets within bow-shot; and when the flock runs from one receiving an arrow, he runs too. The male ostriches will, on some occasions, give chase to the strange bird, when he tries to elude them in a way to prevent them catching his scent; for when once they do, the spell is broken. Should one happen to get too near in pursuit, he has only to run to windward or throw off his saddle to avoid a stroke from a wing which would lay him prostrate."

But the ostrich has other enemies besides man. Beasts as well as birds are said to seek and devour their eggs with great avidity. According to Sir James Alexander (given on the authority of the natives about the Orange River), when the birds have left their nest in the middle of the day in search of food, "a white Egyptian vulture may be seen soaring in mid-air with a stone between his talons. Having carefully surveyed the ground below him, he suddenly lets fall the stone, and then follows it in rapid descent. Let the hunter run to the spot, and he will find a nest of probably a score of eggs, some of them broken by the vulture."

Again, "the jackal is said to roll the eggs together to break them, while the hyæna pushes them off with its nose to break them at a distance."

Nothing of this kind ever came under my notice, though, on the other hand, I have not unfrequently found the bird itself destroyed by lions, panthers, wild dogs, and other beasts.