Ostrich

Struthio camelus

The ostrich is the largest living species of bird on earth. It weighs between 80 and 150 kilos, and can reach a height of over 2.5 metres. It cannot fly but can run at impressive speeds of over 60 km/hour.

 

Males and females have very different colour plumage: the adult males have a mainly black body, while females have greyish-brown feathers. Their eggs are also the largest of any bird, weighing up to 1.5 kilos.

Natural habit

Africa except the northwestern corner.

Ostrich - Zoo Barcelona
  • Distribution / Resident
  • Breeding
  • Wintering
  • Subspecies

Risk level

  • Extint
  • Extint in the wild
  • Critically endangered
  • In Danger
  • Vulnerable
  • Near threatened
  • Minor concern
  • Insufficient data
  • Not evaluated
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Taxonomy

Class
Aves
Order
Sphenisciformes
Family
Struthioniformes

Physical characteristics

90-150 kg
Birth Weight: up to 1,5 kg
175-275 cm
Up to 40 years

Biology

Habitat
Savannah
Social life
Gregarious
Feeding
Omnivorous

Reproduction

Gestation
42-46
Days
Baby
2 a 11

Discover how they are

Biology

Description

The ostrich is the largest bird that currently inhabits the Earth, with a weight that varies between 90 and 150 kg—depending on the subspecies—and heights that can exceed two and a half metres. Sexual dimorphism is quite pronounced: the plumage of the body is black, with white wings and tails on males and brown plumage on females. Their legs, without feathers, and the neck, covered with light fuzz, are pink on males and a grey tone on females. The wings are extraordinarily useful when running, like balancing poles, letting them zig-zag and leave most pursuers behind.  In order to adapt to running, the number of toes has reduced, now only having two on each foot.

 

At present, three subspecies are known, which are mainly differentiated by the colouring on the legs and neck. The classification of the former subspecies from Somalia, Struthio camelus molybdophanes, was changed to a species some years ago, and is mainly different from the common ostrich due to the colouring of the legs, neck and head, totally grey and with black body plumage that is even darker.

Habitat

They generally prefer savannahs and open regions where, thanks to their size, they can spot predators some distance away, allowing them to flee and elude capture.

Feeding

Omnivores, they eat seeds, grass, fruits, insects and small vertebrates. They often swallow stones that help them grind their food.

Reproduction

During the reproduction period—between September and November depending on the region—each male couples with more than one female. The females will lay between six and eight white eggs weighing up to 1.5 kg each, in a community nest located in a small hole in the ground, usually constructed by the male. During incubation, which lasts between 42 and 46 days, both males and females help out, which is also true later when raising the young. The young do not obtain their final colouring until they are two years old and sexual maturity at three or four. They can live between 30 and 40 years.

Conduct

They are generally considered sedentary throughout their area of distribution, although during the rainy season and depending on the abundance of food, they can be decidedly nomadic. Indeed, during periods of drought, ostriches travel many kilometres searching for sources of fresh water. In other places in Africa, where the seasons are more defined and there are not continuous times of heavy rainfall or drought, the birds can remain in the same area their entire lives.

Status and conservation programs

It is not endangered at present, and is quite common and abundant throughout its distribution area. The large problem that the ostrich faces is the fact that its meat is highly valued, especially during periods of civil war or political instability, as large human settlements eat the meat, with a single bird able to produce up to 80 kg.