Sunday, September 23, 2012

OstrichLand USA

Have you ever seen an ostrich up close? They're huge! And their enormous eyes with those super-long lashes? Stunning!

Now, imagine being able to not only see them right across the fence, but actually feed them. What an experience!

On one of our many trips up and down the California coast, we stumbled upon OstrichLand USA in Buellton/Solvang. We passed it as we were heeding the call of Danish pastries in Solvang, and we just had to check it out on our way back to Highway 101.

What a treat! We entered the everything-ostrich shop, paid for our admission and bowls of ostrich food, then headed to see the great birds. The ostriches and emus are trained to eat out of the bowls, which are firmly attached to dustpans (to keep your hands away from those strong beaks). Older kids and adults should be able to do this on their own, but little kids will need help holding on to the pan, as ostriches flock from all over the ranch to grab a bite.

After feeding your new feathered friends, talk a walk along the short path to see more ostriches and emus, and truly obese squirrels (a lot of food hits the ground). Take some time to look out over the landscape, trying to spot as many ostriches as you can. They blend in surprisingly well with the chaparral, especially the brown females.

OstrichLand USA isn't just a novelty, it is educational. They have a tall board filled with Ostrich Fun Facts, which can also be found online. Better yet, if it isn't too busy, you can ask the staff about ostriches and emus, and they'll be happy to share their knowledge.
For more field trip ideas,
check out GHF's Virtual Field Trips page. Field Trips page.

By the way, OstrichLand USA sells ostrich meat (among many other ostrich- and emu-themed items), but they do not raise their birds for food. Instead, they purchase the meat from ranchers who do raise food birds. So, you are not paying to feed an animal that will land up on a hamburger bun in the near future.

OstrichLand USA is better than a zoo, because you get to interact with the birds, not just watch them from a distance. Of course, you need to obey all the safety rules: Ostriches are strong, protective, wild birds.

My only complaint about OstrichLand USA is their website, specifically their Links page. Instead of just promoting local hotels, which is fine, I would love to see links to more information about the birds. Perhaps links to the American Ostrich Association, YouTube videos about ostrichesEnchanted Learning, National Geogaphic Kids, or HelloKids: How to Draw an Ostrich. But this is a minor issue, and one that any Internet novice can overcome with a browser search or two.

Regardless, OstrichLand USA is well worth the slight detour off Highway 101. Learn, and have fun in the process!

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