In The Runaway Brain by Christopher Wills, the author illustrates the fact that ostriches aren't too bright by saying that an ostrich has been recorded as getting tangled in the fork of a tree, panicking, and pulling off its own head.

Is there any evidence to back this up? Is it even plausible?

2 Answers 2



A Reddit user has posted an unsourced video showing an ostrich with its head stuck in a fence. It forcefully tries to pull itself free, and decapitates itself on the fence, leaving its body convulsing.

Warning: This video shows the violent death of a bird, and may be disturbing.

NSFW Reddit page with video

  • I'm glad to see this post has been "undeleted". The warning is extremely appropriate (I thought I had a strong stomach, but it definitely churned over this video! :) - but my question was asked in good faith, and there could hardly be a more "relevant" response than this, so thanks for putting it up here. Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 11:10
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    Is there a link directly to the video? You need to be logged into Reddit to view that link since it's classified as "mature content".
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 5:02

Do you mind if I go back over a century for a reference!

Home Life on An Ostrich Farm by Annie Martin, (George Philip & Son, Liverpool, 1890), page 151

One of T—'s birds performed the "happy despatch" in quite a novel manner. Seeing a tempting quince growing on the further side of a hedge, he squeezed his head and neck through the narrow fork in the branches to reach it. Having secured and eaten his prize, he tried to draw his head back. But what was difficult enough before was now impossible; his neck, bulging with the quince, kept him a prisoner, there was no one at hand to help, and the more he tugged and jumped in the frenzied manner of ostriches when held by the head, the more firmly he stuck. And he was found at last, with his neck broken, and his head, to all intents and purposes, pulled off.
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    I'm impressed! Pretty weird/sickening, but it doesn't sound like just an urban myth then. Commented May 24, 2011 at 11:32
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    That same source goes on to describe an ostrich that, after having wounded itself to the point of having its oesophagus torn, kept on eating, the food falling out of the wound.
    – SQB
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 6:38

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