About animals

African ostrich


African ostrich (lat. Struthio camelus) Is the largest bird in the world and the only representative of the ostrich-like order, the ostrich family, the ostrich genus. Belongs to the class of birds, a subclass of ratites.

International scientific nameStruthio camelus Linnaeus, 1758.

Security status - causing the least concern.

The biological name of a flightless bird in Greek literally sounds like “camel sparrow” (Greek στρουθίο-κάμηλος). This apt allegory arose thanks to the characteristic features of the ostrich: it has the same expressive eyes as framed by a camel, framed by long eyelashes, two-fingered limbs and a callus. Comparison with a sparrow probably arose due to small, poorly developed wings.

What does an ostrich eat?

An ostrich is an omnivorous bird, and although the diet of young individuals is predominantly animal food, adult birds feed on all kinds of vegetation. Their diet consists of herbs, shoots and seeds of plants, flowers, ovaries, as well as fruits, including quite rigid ones. Nevertheless, adult individuals are far from vegetarians and, if possible, will not refuse various insects, for example, locusts, as well as lizards, small rodents, and fell in the form of undernourished prey of large predators. There is nothing to chew food for ostriches, therefore, to improve digestion, they eat sand and small pebbles, and often various inedible objects: chips, pieces of plastic, metal and even nails. Ostriches can also calmly starve for several days.

Like camels, ostriches can do without water for a long time: they have enough fluid from the green mass of plants. But, having access to water, the ostrich drinks a lot and willingly. With the same great pleasure, ostriches bathe.

Where do ostriches live? Ostriches lifestyle

Ostriches live in Africa. Birds avoid tropical rainforests, preferring open grassy landscapes and semi-deserts located to the north and south of the equatorial forests.

The habitat of ostriches on the African continent. The color highlights the places where various subspecies of the African ostrich live. Photo by: Renato Caniatti

African ostriches live in family groups consisting of a mature male, 4-5 females and their offspring. Often, the number of flocks reaches 20-30 individuals, and young ostriches in the south of the range live in groups of up to hundreds of birds.

Ostriches often share pastures with entire herds of antelopes or zebras, while animals and birds are quite peaceful to each other and travel together along the African savannah. Possessing high growth and excellent vision, ostriches immediately notice the approach of predators and quickly run away, making steps up to 3.5-4 m long. In this case, the speed of the ostrich can reach about 60-70 km / h. Long-legged runners are able to dramatically change direction, without slowing down. And ostrich chicks, 30 days old, are practically inferior to their parents and can run at a speed of up to 50 km / h.

Types of ostriches, photos and names

In the Pleistocene and Pliocene epochs on the earth, there were several varieties of ostriches that lived in Western and Central Asia, in India and the southern regions of Eastern Europe. In the chronicles of the ancient Greek historian Xenophon, these birds are mentioned that inhabited the desert landscapes of the Middle East, west of the Euphrates River.

Uncontrolled extermination of birds led to a sharp reduction in the population, and today the only species of ostriches includes 4 surviving subspecies that live in the vastness of Africa. The following is a description of the subspecies of the African ostrich.

  • Ordinary or North African Ostrich (Struthio camelus camelus)

It features a bald head. This is the largest subspecies, whose growth reaches 2.74 meters, while the ostrich weighs up to 156 kg. The limbs and neck of the ostrich are painted in intense red color, and the eggshell is covered with thin rays of pores, forming a pattern similar to a star. Previously, ordinary ostriches lived in a large territory covering the north and west of the African continent, from Ethiopia and Uganda in the south of the range to Algeria and Egypt in the north, covering West African countries, including Mauritania and Senegal. These days, the habitat of these birds has declined significantly, and now the common ostrich lives in only a few countries in Africa: Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic and Senegal.

Common ostrich (North African ostrich) male (lat.Struthio camelus camelus). Photo by: MathKnight

Common ostrich female (lat. Struthio camelus camelus). Photo by: שלומי שטרית

  • Masai Ostrich (Struthio camelus massaicus)

Inhabitant of East Africa (southern Kenya, eastern Tanzania, Ethiopia, southern Somalia). His neck and limbs during the breeding season are painted in intense red color. Outside of the breeding season, they are pink in color.

Masai ostrich male (lat.Struthio camelus massaicus). Photo by Nicor

Masai ostrich female (lat.Struthio camelus massaicus). Photo by: Nevit Dilmen

  • Somali ostrich (Struthio camelus molybdophanes)

Based on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA, it is sometimes considered as an independent species. Males have the same baldness on their heads as representatives of the subspecies of ordinary ostriches, but their neck and limbs differ in the bluish-gray color of the skin, and females of the Somali ostrich have especially bright brown feathers. Somali ostriches live in southern Ethiopia, northeastern Kenya and Somalia, and the local population calls them the beautiful word "gorajo". This subspecies of ostriches prefers to live in pairs or singly.

Photo by David Bygott

  • Southern ostrich (Struthio camelus australis)

It is also distinguished by the gray color of the plumage of the neck and extremities, and its range locally passes through the southwestern part of Africa. Ostrich is found in Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana; it lives south of the Zambezi and Kunene rivers.

Southern ostrich male (lat.Struthio camelus australis). Photo by: Bernard DUPONT

Southern ostrich female (lat.Struthio camelus australis). Photo by: Yathin S Krishnappa

Ostrich breeding

Ostriches puberty occurs at the age of 2-4 years. During the mating period, each male vigilantly guards his personal territory within a radius of 2 to 15 square kilometers and ruthlessly expels competitors. The neck and limbs of the current male become bright red, and to attract the females he falls to his knees, intensively beats his wings, bends his neck back and rubs the back of his head on his back. During the rivalry for the possession of the female, the males make very original trumpet and hissing sounds. Having gained more air in the goiter, the male ostrich abruptly pushes him into the esophagus, announcing the surroundings with something like a uterine roar, reminiscent of a lion's growl.

Ostriches are polygamous, so the dominant male mates with all the harem females, but is paired exclusively with the dominant female for subsequent breeding of the offspring.

After mating, the future father personally digs a nest up to 30-60 cm deep in the sand, where all fertilized females periodically lay their eggs, performing a similar manipulation every two days.

Photo by: Alina Zienowicz

Among the bird variety, the ostrich has the largest eggs, although they are quite small in relation to the body. On average, the size of an ostrich egg is from 15 to 21 cm in length and about 13 cm in width. Egg weight reaches 1.5-2 kg, which is equivalent to 25-35 chicken eggs. The thickness of the shell is approximately 0.6 mm, and its color is straw yellow, sometimes darker or, conversely, lighter.

In eggs laid by different females, the texture of the shell varies and can be glossy and shiny or dull and porous.

Photo by: Raul654

An ostrich egg compared to a chicken and quail egg. Photo by: Rainer Zenz

In the inhabitants of the northern part of the range, the joint laying usually contains from 15 to 20 eggs, in the south - about 30, in the East African population the number of eggs in the nest often reaches 50-60. After laying the eggs, the dominant female ostrich forces the competitors to leave and rolls their eggs in the middle of the pit, determining them by the texture of the shell.

The incubation period lasts from 35 to 45 days, at night only the male incubates masonry, during the day the females are on duty in turn. This choice is not accidental: due to the protective color, the females go unnoticed against the background of a desert landscape. During the day, masonry is sometimes left unattended and warmed by solar heat. Despite the general concern of the parents, many masonries die due to insufficient incubation. In populations where there are too many females, the number of eggs in the clutch may be such that the male is physically unable to cover all the offspring with his body.

An hour before the birth of the ostrich chick begins to open the shell of the egg, rests its spread legs on its sharp and blunt ends and methodically beats its beak at one point until a small hole is formed. Thus, the chick makes several holes, and then with a force hits the back of his head, so ostriches are often born with significant hematomas that tend to pass quickly. When the last chick was born, an adult ostrich mercilessly destroys non-viable eggs lying on the edge, and immediately flies gather to feed the chicks.

Photo by: Pries

Newborn ostriches are sighted, well-developed, a light fluff covers their bodies, and their weight is about 1.2 kg. The chicks that came into the world move well and leave the nest the next day, going with the parent in search of food. The first two months the ostriches are covered with black and yellow bristles, the crown has a brick color, and the neck is dirty white with dark longitudinal stripes.

Only with time do they form real feathers, and the outfit of all the chicks becomes similar in color to the plumage of the females. Ostrich males acquire a black color characteristic of adult individuals only in the second year of life.

Taken from: www.reddit.com

Ostriches are very attached to each other, and if two groups of chicks have met, it is already impossible to separate them, so flocks consisting of ostriches of different ages are often found in the savannahs of Africa.

Being polygamous birds, the male and female start a fight between themselves, and the stronger parent gets further care for the brood.

Photo by: Magnus Manske

Enemies of ostriches in nature

Jackals, hyenas and carrion birds prey on ostrich eggs. For example, a vulture grabs a large stone with its beak and throws it on top of the egg several times until it cracks. Chicks can also be attacked by lions, cheetahs, leopards or hyenas.

It is vain to think that ostriches are fearful birds: in fact, they are quite aggressive and able to fend for themselves and their offspring. An angry ostrich, without hesitation, will attack a man who encroached on its territory, and even seasoned predators are afraid of adult birds. Cases were recorded when the defending ostrich with one powerful blow to his leg mortally wounded an adult lion.

Photo by: Kevin Power

Birds similar to ostrich african

There are several species of birds that are very similar to an ostrich. But they do not belong to the family of ostriches and the genus of ostriches. A brief description is provided below.

Darwin he is small rhea or long-billed rhea (Rhea pennata)

Large flightless bird from the order of nanduiformes, the family of Nandu, the genus Nandu. The plumage of a bird is gray or a tan, there are white spots on the back. The height in the back is about 90 cm, the weight varies between 15-25 kg. Darwin Nandu lives in southern Argentina, including Patagonia and the southern Andes, in Bolivia, in Argentina and on the island of Tierra del Fuego.

Photo by CHUCAO

Big Rhea, ordinary Rheahe Northern Rhea (Rhea americana)

A flightless bird from the order of nanduiformes, the family of Nandu, the genus Nandu. A typical representative of South America. It lives in Argentina and Bolivia, in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The height of the large rhea to the level of the little tomie reaches 127-140 cm, weight varies from 20 to 25 and more kilograms. The feathers are brownish-gray; often albino individuals with white plumage and bright blue eyes are found among birds.

Photo by: Rufus46

Cassowary (Casuarius) - A large-sized bird, unable to fly. Belongs to the order of the cassowary, the family of cassowary, the genus of cassowary. Scientists have identified three types of cassowary. Individuals reach 150 cm in height and weigh up to 80 kg.

A distinctive feature of the bird is a kind of outgrowth helmet on the head. The head and neck of the bird are usually fledgling, the color of feathers on the body is black, in two species there are bright “earrings” of various colors in the neck. Cassowars inhabit the thickets of the tropics of New Guinea, in northeast Australia, are found on the islands of Aru, Muruk, Salavati, Yapen.

Photo by: Michael Schmid

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

Large flightless bird from the order of cassowary, emu family, emu family. It reaches a height of 150-170 cm, weighing from 45 to 55 kg. The color of the feathers is gray-brown. Emu is widespread almost throughout Australia.

Photo by: Benjamint444

Ostrich meat

African ostrich meat is a rather useful product, which, according to some nutritionists, has overtaken even the popular turkey in terms of the minimum cholesterol content with the maximum amount of protein. Ostrich meat has a dark red color, tastes a bit like veal, cooks very quickly, but with prolonged heat treatment it can lose tenderness and juiciness. Ostrich meat is very much appreciated in the countries of Asia and Europe, becoming a quite familiar restaurant dish among connoisseurs of delicious food with exotic notes. Appetizing steaks, fries, cold appetizers, meatballs are prepared from ostrich meat, it is boiled, stewed and baked. The lean meat of the African ostrich contains manganese, potassium and iron, it is rich in phosphorus, B vitamins and nicotinic acid.

Do ostriches hide their heads in the sand?

There is a misconception that ostriches hide their heads in the sand, but they do not do anything like that. The appearance of this myth was facilitated by the way birds stand with their heads bowed to the ground and swallow small stones that aid digestion.

An ostrich can also drop its head on the sand after a long run. The bird does not have strength, and thus it rests.


Latin name Struthio camelus
English name ostrich
Order: Ostrich-shaped Struthioniformes
Family: Ostrich Struthionidae

A wingless flightless bird, the only representative of the ostrich family. Its scientific name in Greek means.

Edit Distribution

Ostriches live in Central and South Africa.

The ostrich's habitat covers almost the whole of Africa. This bird is not found only in North Africa and the Sahara. In the past, ostriches were found even in areas of Asia adjacent to the African continent - on the Arabian Peninsula and in Syria.

Edit Appearance

Ostriches are the largest birds: the average ostrich is 2.5 meters tall and weighs 120 kg. Of course, most of the height of the bird falls on long legs and neck.

The ostrich's head, on the contrary, is very small compared to body size. Even smaller is the brain, which in ostriches does not exceed the size of a walnut. Ostriches are generally characterized by a small flat head with large eyes, equipped with eyelashes on the upper eyelid, open bare ears, a flat straight beak with a horn claw on the beak and two spurs on the wings. The mouth gap reaches the eyes.

Ostriches do not have a keel of the sternum, since their pectoral muscles are relatively poorly developed, so ostriches are completely incapable of flying.

Ostriches do not have goiter, but their neck is very extensible and they can swallow quite large prey as a whole.

Vision in these birds is well developed. External auditory openings clearly appear on the weakly feathered head and even resemble small ears in their shape.


The ostriches are most feathered in the body, tail and wings, neck, head and upper legs are covered with short down and can look almost naked. The lower part of the legs is covered with large scales.

Plumage of ostriches "curly". The feathers are soft. The head, neck and large callus on the chest, on which ostriches lean when they lie down, are not feathered. The rather large ostrich wings are equipped with two spurs. The ostrich has a rather long tail of soft feathers.

Feathers in ostriches grow evenly throughout the body, while in most birds they are located along special lines - pterillia. This arrangement of feathers is also found in nandu, emu, cassowary, kiwi and penguins. Feathers themselves do not have a structured fan; secondary feather beards do not adhere to each other.

Edit Feet

The legs of the ostrich are perfectly adapted for running. Firstly, long paws have powerful muscles, and secondly, an ostrich has only two fingers on its feet - one huge, similar to a whole foot and armed with a claw, and the second is smaller and without a claw. The second finger is not a supporting one, but only helps to maintain balance and improves traction with the soil while running.

Edit Bodies

Another unique, but little-known feature of ostriches is the separate excretion of feces and urine from the body.

As you know, in all birds, urine and feces are excreted simultaneously in the form of a semi-liquid litter. But in ostriches, both substances are excreted separately, these are the only birds in the world that have a bladder.

Edit Sexual dimorphism

African ostriches have pronounced sexual dimorphism. The males are larger and have a black color, the ends of the feathers on the wings and tail are white, the females are gray-brown and smaller.

Different subspecies of the African ostrich, in addition, may differ in the color of the beak and paws. (There are 4 subspecies in total.) In some subspecies, they are sandy gray, in others they may have a bright pink fringing or be completely red.

Edit lifestyle

Ostriches are inhabitants of open plains, they inhabit grassy savannas, dry woodlands and semi-deserts. They avoid dense thickets, marshy plains and deserts with quicksands, since they cannot develop high running speed there.

Ostriches are active mainly at dusk, in the strong midday heat and at night they rest. An ostrich’s night sleep consists of short periods of deep sleep, when the bird lies on the ground with its neck extended, and long periods of half-sleep, when it sits with its neck raised and its eyes closed.

Edit Community and symbiosis

Ostriches are saddles. Keep in small flocks or families. Families usually consist of one adult male, four to five adult females and young.

In exceptional cases, flocks of up to 50 individuals can form. A flock does not have a permanent composition, but a strict hierarchy reigns in it. Birds of the highest rank hold their tail and neck vertically, weaker individuals - obliquely.

Ostrich is a bird very careful. Flocks of ostriches often graze along with herds of zebras and quagas and, together with them, undertake large migrations across vast African steppes.

During feeding, ostriches often raise their heads and surround the surrounding area with a keen eye. They can see a moving object on the surface of the plain per kilometer. If a danger is suspected, the ostrich tries to retire in advance, not allowing it to approach the predator. Therefore, the behavior of ostriches is often monitored by other herbivores that are not so sharp-sighted and rely more on their sense of smell.

If necessary, the ostrich can run at a speed of 70 km / h, that is, it freely overtakes the horse, in exceptional cases the ostrich can accelerate to 80-90 km / h (over a short distance). During running, the ostrich can make sharp turns without slowing down, and also suddenly lie down on the ground.

Edit Power

The main food of ostriches is made up of various herbaceous plants, but they can more likely be called omnivores. Along with grass, leaves and fruits, they can eat insects, small lizards, turtles, and even birds and animals. They eat what they are able to grab and swallow whole. Ostriches swallow their prey whole, including hard fruits. Also, these birds often swallow pebbles that help to grind food; in an adult bird, up to 1 kg of pebbles can accumulate in the stomach. Interestingly, these birds prefer to pick up food from the ground, and rarely pluck branches.

On the other hand, ostriches can stay without food for several days.

Their attitude to water is the same. Ostriches can do without water for a long time, but on occasion they readily drink and bathe.

Edit Reproduction

The breeding season for ostriches living in humid areas lasts from June to October. Ostriches living in the desert breed all year round.

During this period, herds of ostriches decay, and males occupy areas that carefully guard against competitors. Seeing a rival, an ostrich rushes in front of him and strives to kick. The female ostrich accepts favorably. To attract their attention, an ostrich can make a growl, driving air through its throat. As the female approaches, the ostrich begins to current; for this, it spreads its wings, the span of which can reach 2 m.

Ostriches are polygamous birds, so each male strives to gather around him more chosen ones and mates with all the females. However, in the ostrich's harem, one female always takes the leading position and may linger near the male until the end of nesting, while the rest are removed.

Ostriches build common nests. The nest is a flat depression in the ground, torn with the help of a beak and paws. Each female in such a common nest carries up to twelve eggs. Up to 60 eggs can accumulate in nests, which hatch either by one male, then by male and female alternately for 45-52 days.

The eggs are large up to 16 cm in length at 13 cm in diameter and have an almost spherical shape. They have such a thick glossy white shell that the natives use it like vessels, braiding it from the outside with ropes twisted from plants. The eggshell is so strong that it can withstand the weight of an adult. But this same shell is a serious test for the chicks. To hatch, the chick pours the shell for several hours making a small hole, and then expands it resting against the arch of the head with the back of the head. From the first minutes of life, ostriches can follow adults and seek food on their own. Interestingly, the ostrich often breaks the remaining eggs in the nest with its feet, the smell of rotten eggs attracts flies that ostriches peck. In general, ostrich chicks, unlike adult birds, eat only animal food, mainly insects.

Chicks are covered with rare protruding yellow and black setae. Real feathers appear in their second month, and black feathers in males in the second month. Kids grow quickly and can soon reach speeds of up to 50 km / h. Despite this, the chicks are vulnerable to predators, only 15% of the chicks live to a year.

Ostriches reach full growth only after four years.

Enemies and Defense

In nature, ostriches have few enemies, the largest losses in the population are observed during the incubation of eggs and the rearing of young animals. In addition to hyenas, jackals and egg-hunting vultures, lions, cheetahs and leopards can attack chicks. Adult ostriches fall into the clutches of predators only if they managed to trap the bird in ambush and attack from the back.

Although the ostrich can defend itself from the enemy on the spot, it prefers to flee.

It should be noted, however, that ostriches show caution only during the non-breeding season. During incubation of masonry and care for offspring, they turn into very brave and aggressive birds. In this period of time, there can be no question of hiding from danger. An ostrich reacts to any moving object instantly and goes across to it. First, the bird opens its wings and tries to scare the enemy, if this does not help, then the ostrich rushes at the enemy and tramples it underfoot. With a paw strike, the male ostrich can break the skull of a lion, add to this the tremendous speed that the bird develops as easily as it flees from the enemy. No African animal dares to engage in open battle with an ostrich, but some take advantage of the short-sightedness of the bird. During a group attack, hyenas and jackals distract the attention of the ostrich and, while it scares off some aggressors, their accomplices often manage to go from the rear and drag an egg from the nest.

Hatched chicks are completely defenseless, any predator can eat them. But ostriches know how to trick. At the slightest danger, in order to save their lives, they fall and freeze without movement. Predators think that the ostriches are dead and do not touch them.

The ostrich has a good camouflage. The head is the same color as the ground covered with dust, and the body is dark, so that predators take it for a bush. Ostriches are so well protected from predators that they can live up to 70 years.

Edit Protection and status

Although ostriches, as a species as a whole, are not currently at risk of extinction, it is only because the bird is bred in the household by humans. However, the population of wild ostriches is steadily declining.

During the Pliocene, the genus Ostriches was common in southern Europe and India. Currently, the wild ostrich, thanks to the constant persecution by the person to whom it is exposed not only for its valuable feathers, but also for the eggs and meat used for food, is gradually disappearing in many more populated areas, such as in Northern Egypt, already completely gone.

View and man

Beautiful lush tail and fly feathers of ostriches from ancient times went to the manufacture of ladies' fans and the decoration of hats. As a result of predatory prey, a huge number of ostriches were destroyed - in the XVIII - early XIX centuries, they almost disappeared from the face of the earth. Fortunately, in the middle of the nineteenth century they began to be bred on farms to obtain skin and meat. This saved the species from complete destruction, but the Middle Eastern ostrich subspecies was exterminated. Ostriches are currently bred in 50 countries, including countries with a cold climate, such as Sweden and Russia. But most farms are in Africa. In addition to skin and meat, ostrich eggs are also used. Of all the birds, ostriches have the largest eggs. One egg can weigh 1.5 kg! In order to eat such eggs at home, they are too large, so they are mainly used by restaurants. But in relation to the body size of the bird, ostrich eggs ... the smallest!

Ostrich eggs have become a favorite object for painting and artistic carving.

Ostriches are very strong birds, you can ride them, in many countries ostrich runs are organized for the entertainment of the public. The rider sits astride an ostrich, and the birds run along a peculiar corridor fenced by the bars. But since bird ostriches are aggressive and almost untrained, such entertainment is not very widespread.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Ostriches feed on everything that can be found on earth: seeds, fruits and green parts of plants, insects, small vertebrates, the remains of a meal of birds of prey, even small turtles all goes well. Ostriches have no teeth, so for better chopping food, they swallow small pebbles. Pebbles help grind food in the stomach. Ostriches can do without watering for a long time, because they receive water from plants. However, on occasion, they readily drink and even bathe.

In ostriches, urine is excreted from the body in liquid form. In flying birds, the products of the digestive tract and kidneys are excreted together, in the form of a semi-liquid substance of color.

Social behavior

Outside the breeding season, ostriches are kept in small groups or families. A family usually consists of a male, several females and chicks. Ostriches often graze with ungulates, such as zebras and antelopes. Due to their high growth and good eyesight, ostriches notice danger before others and take flight, other animals use it, having noticed the reaction of ostriches, they also run away.

Ostriches are capable of speeds up to 70 km per hour! Even 1 month old chicks can run at a speed of 50 km per hour.

The widespread myth that, being frightened, the ostrich hides its head in the sand, does not correspond to reality. An ostrich is not at all defenseless. Kicking his legs can be fatal for the attacker. In addition, ostriches are very aggressive. The soil in the habitats of ostriches is dense and is unlikely to succeed in hiding his head in a big way. And even if it were possible, such a “method of defense” has no biological meaning, since in this case the ostrich would necessarily become a prey of a predator.

Life History at the Zoo

African ostriches are kept in the Moscow Zoo almost from the very beginning of its existence.

These birds are quite unpretentious and hardy, they can walk even in winter, although they definitely need a warm pavilion.

Currently, in the Moscow Zoo, an ostrich is on display in the New Territory in the Animals of Africa pavilion. We have the ostrich Martha born in 2005. Martha made friends with a female giraffe, lives with her in the same enclosure, and they spend all the time together. If they are separated for a reason, they both miss each other. In the summer, when all African animals can walk for a long time in a large street aviary, Martha and her friend giraffe play catch-up, sometimes a zebra joins them.

Since the ostrich is an omnivorous bird, there are no feeding problems. In the zoo, the ostrich receives compound feed and fresh feed: carrots, potatoes, beets, apples, fresh and dry branches and mice. In the summer, Martha enjoys nibbling grass in a street aviary.

Since in nature ostriches swallow pebbles to better chop food in the stomach, in captivity they can swallow various foreign objects: nails, pieces of plastic, glass, so zoologists carefully monitor that ostriches do not have any dangerous objects in the enclosure.