The ostrich’s eye is the largest of any land animal

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Ostrich

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Native to more than 25 African countries
  • Ostriches’ eyes are 2 inches across
  • Eggs can weigh 3 pounds

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Struthio camelus

Weight

140 to 320 lb.

Size

Up to 9 ft. tall

Life span

40 years

Habitat

Semiarid plains and woodlands

Diet

Omnivorous

Gestation

35 to 45 days

Predators

Humans, cheetahs, lions, leopards, hunting dogs, spotted hyena

Habitat

Where do ostriches live?

Ostriches live throughout Africa’s semiarid plains and woodlands. 

Tags: Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kazungula, Kilimanjaro, Maasai Steppe, Samburu, Zambezi, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is an ostrich?

The ostrich is the largest bird in the world. It is flightless and relies on strong legs with two clawed toes used for running and kicking. Males are black with white wings and tail feathers, while females are brownish-gray.

Behavior & Diet

Ostriches are resourceful and adaptable grazers.

They feed on grasses, shrubbery, berries, seeds, and succulents. Ostriches also eat insects and small reptiles—which they chase in an awkward zigzag pattern. Ostriches can rely on the vegetation as a water source for a short time; however, for long-term survival, they need open-water sources. 

They are polygamous.

A male ostrich will escort a flock made up of one head female and a couple of subordinate females. Courtship is very ritualized and synchronized. All females lay their eggs in the same nest, though the head female usually drives the others away after laying. The male plays a large part in raising the young, from helping to construct the nest to guarding the eggs and chasing off predators.

Sometimes, flocks mingle together.

During the dry season, large groups (up to 700 birds) will congregate peacefully at a water source, though flock identity remains intact. Sometimes, one flock will adopt the young of another, and sometimes, groups of subadults will form.

The ostrich can roar like a lion.

While not exactly a roar, the male ostrich has a booming warning call that can sound like a lion.

Gallery
  • Ostrich Lee Slabber
  • Ostrich Mayu Mishina
  • Ostrich Billy Dodson
  • Ostrich Craig R. Sholley
Challenges

Ostriches are popular in the fashion world.

In the 18th century, ostrich feathers were so popular in ladies’ fashion that the ostrich disappeared from all of North Africa. If not for ostrich farming, which began in 1838, the ostrich would probably be extinct. Today, ostriches are farmed and hunted for feathers, skin, meat, eggs, and fat—which, in Somalia, is believed to cure AIDS and diabetes. 

Humans are encroaching on ostrich habitats.

As human populations grow, they expand into areas where wildlife once roamed freely. The construction of settlements and roads and agricultural cultivation all contribute to habitat loss. 

Solutions

Our solution to protecting the ostrich:

  • Promote conservation tourism.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with local communities to decide on an appropriate plan to bring tourism to the area. In Kenya’s Laikipia region, the Koija Starbeds Lodge was constructed to provide an unparalleled experience to tourists, while at the same time, setting aside land for wildlife, and creating jobs and incomes for the local community. The land at Koija Starbeds has recovered remarkably well from past overgrazing and now supports higher numbers of wildlife.

Projects

Will you show the ostrich your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on critical initiatives like new conservation tourism lodges that will provide the ostrich with increased space to graze and roam freely. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the ostrich does not become an endangered species. 

  • Kitengela Land Conservation
    Protecting habitat and communities near Kenya’s capital

    Human expansion is threatening wildlife outside of Nairobi, Kenya.

    For many years, local Maasai communities, their livestock, and wildlife comfortably shared the open...

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    All Projects

  • Mau Reforestation
    Planting trees in a critical forested ecosystem

    Kenya’s ecological health is in danger.

    The ecological health of the Mau Forest Complex in Kenya’s Rift Valley region is in imminent danger. Deforestation and...

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