To bury one’s head in the sand is to ignore or deny the existence of a problem in the hope it will eventually go away. But despite this well-known idiom, which has been in use since Roman times, ostriches do not in fact bury their heads in the sand.

However, it is more than likely that the phrase has some link to these flightless birds. In the past, people who observed ostriches that appeared to bury their heads in the sand thought they did so to avoid predators. The idea was that an ostrich is so stupid that if it hid its head in the sand so it couldn’t see a predator, the predator wouldn’t be able to see them. This would of course be an incredibly silly thing to do, as an ostrich would asphyxiate if it did actually bury its head in the sand.

The question then is how did this myth originate and what are ostriches doing when they put their heads to the ground? Nesting ostriches lay their eggs in shallow holes in the ground and several times a day the ostrich will use its beak to turn the eggs. It is more than likely that this is the behaviour that was observed which led to the saying.

So if ostriches don't bury their heads in the sand how do ostriches escape from predators? They run! Although ostriches can’t fly they can sprint at speeds up to 45 mph, which is more than enough to outrun most predators.

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