Ostrich Ostrich

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Genus Species
Struthio (ostrich) camelus (camel-like)

Fast Facts

The ostrich is the largest and heaviest living bird in the world. Males are jet black with white plumage and bright red or blue skin. Females are fairly uniform in color, with earthy gray-brown plumage and skin.
Large adults can reach a height of 2.75 m (9 ft.).
Adults may weigh up to 156.5 kg (345 lbs.).
These birds feed on fruit, seeds, leaves, shoots, shrubs and succulent plants. They may also feed on invertebrates, lizards, and other small animals. Stones may be ingested to aid in digestion.
The eggs are incubated for around 40 days.
Sexual Maturity
They reach adulthood in 3 to 4 years.
Life Span
They may live up to 40 years in managed care but their lifespan in the wild is unknown.
These birds can be found throughout much of Africa including Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
The ostrich can be found in dry grasslands, shrublands and savannahs in sub-tropical and tropical habitats.
The global population size has not been determined, but the species is reported to be frequent to abundant throughout most of its range.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: The populations of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan are included in Appendix I.
USFWS: Arabian and West African Ostrich are listed as endangered.

Fun Facts

A single egg weighs about the same as two dozen chicken eggs.

Ostriches can run up to 40 mph and can outpace most predators including lions, leopards, and hyenas.

These birds are unable to fly and do not possess the keeled breastbone common to most birds.

Ostriches may stretch out their neck and lay their head on the ground to escape detection.

Ostriches are so powerful that a single kick can be fatal to predators.

The females have a remarkable ability to recognize their own eggs even when mixed in with those of other females in their communal nest.

Ecology and Conservation

Ostrich feathers have been used for adornment by humans for at least 5,000 years and the eggs are still used by African Bushmen as jewelry and receptacles for carrying water.

Extensive hunting for feathers, meat, and skin coupled with overgrazing by domestic animals has led to the near extinction of these birds from the Middle East and some areas of Africa.

This species is now most threatened by habitat loss


Bertram, R.C.B. The Ostrich Communal Nesting System. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Grzimek, H.C. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol. 7. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1992.

Perrins, C.M. (ed.) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.

BirdLife International 2018. Struthio camelus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T45020636A132189458. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T45020636A132189458.en. Downloaded on 06 November 2019.