Meet Linda the Ostrich, the National Zoo’s Newest Animal Ambassador

The large feathery friend is four years old and arrived at the Zoo in November 2021

An image of Linda the Ostrich at the National Zoo
Linda is observant, social, and aware of new sights and sounds. National Zoo/Tallie Wiles

Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute has welcomed a new resident: Meet Linda, a four-year-old, eight-foot-tall female ostrich. 

Originally from Hemker Wildlife Park in Texas, she arrived in Washington, D.C. in November 2021 and has been adjusting well to her new life at the National Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station, reports Abigail Constantino for WTOP News. Linda's private enclosure neighbors cheetahs, red river hogs, and sitatungas. To prepare for her official debut, zookeepers have been observing her behavior and learning about her biology, according to Zoo statement.

Ostriches are the world’s largest bird and can weigh between 200 and 350 pounds. The birds, while flightless, have no problem getting around with their powerful long legs. In a single stride, the animals can cover 10 to 16 feet and sprint up to 43 miles per hour. Their deliver lethal kicks to predators when threatened, according to National Geographic

A black-and-white image from 1900 of an ostrich at the National Zoo
An ostrich stands in a temporary bird enclosure constructed behind a structure where hooved animals were kept at the National Zoo circa 1900. Smithsonian Archives

The National Zoo housed ostriches in its collection when it first opened in the late 1880s, reports Colleen Grablick for DCist. Jen Zoon, a communications specialist for the National Zoo, tells DCist it's been at least been "a good long while." Before Linda, the Zoo hosted another flightless bird, Darwin, an emu who passed in 2018. 

“Although our team cares for a variety of birds—namely Abyssinian ground hornbills, Karl and Karoline, and Ruppell’s griffon vultures, Tuck and Natelie—it has been many years since we have worked with a large, flightless bird. Zoogoers may fondly remember our late emu Darwin, who seemed to enjoy watching visitors as much as they enjoyed watching him!” writes Tallie Wiles, a Cheetah Conservation Station keeper at the National Zoo, in a statement.

Ostriches feed on small animals like mice, frogs, insects, and small plants in the wild. While at the Zoo, Linda will receive some produce, insects, and pellets enriched with vitamins and nutrients, per a statement. During the last few months in her new home, the team has learned Linda’s personality and quirks, and they are confident she will make an excellent ambassador for her species. 

“She keeps us on our toes. Just when we think we know what she’s going to do, she changes her routine and does something a little unexpected!” Wiles said in a statement. Linda is observant, social, and aware of new sights and sounds.

Soon after Linda acclimates to her environment and the animal care team prepares her outdoor habitat, she will be ready to greet visitors. Until then, zoo officials will post updates on Linda’s debut to the National Zoo’s website and social media pages.

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