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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

Common Ostrich: 19 Facts You Won't Believe!

Interesting common ostrich facts that will amaze you.

The common ostrich is a species of giant flightless bird. The scientific name Struthio camelus was given to the species by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish zoologist, and taxonomist in 1758. The common ostrich is the world's largest bird. Its genus is called Struthio and it has only two living species, Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes) and the common ostrich (Struthio camelus). The Somali ostrich is a blue-necked bird native to the Horn of Africa. In contrast, the common ostrich distribution occurs in savannas, the Sahel of Africa, and the northern and southern parts of the equatorial forest zone. Ostriches live in herds but are often accompanied by other animals in the wild such as zebras and antelopes. Since ostriches are omnivores, they often eat insects and small reptiles. These animals help them find insects on the ground by kicking the soil a little bit. In return, the ostriches keep an eye out for potential predators and warn the animals and their herd if a predator is approaching them by producing a loud sound. Ostriches are homeothermic endotherms, and they maintain a stable body temperature by regulating the metabolic heat in their bodies. They love being around lakes, ponds, or any source of water. Ostriches bathe and drink water every chance they get. However, they can go days without consuming water and survive off metabolic water ingested from plants.

Common ostriches are farmed for their meat, feathers, and leather. They produce the strongest leather available in commercial markets. Their eyes are five times the size of a human eye. They take up a lot of space in their skull which results in their brain being smaller than either of its eye. Ostriches are not the most intelligent birds, and some speculate it is because they have small brains. These birds have three stomachs which help them break down and metabolize tough plant matter. The process of digestion takes 34-36 hours because they have an abnormally long intestine and have no gallbladder. All three stomachs of an ostrich perform different functions. The glandular stomach makes up for the missing gallbladder, the ventriculus is where the birds store pebbles and stones to break down foods ingested by them, and then finally passed down to the small intestine.

When ostriches are alone, they become vulnerable and feel endangered by the presence of a predator, so to avoid the predator, they flatten their heads and necks on the ground which is an attempt to look like rocks. From a distance, this looks like they have buried their heads in the sand. When cornered, a frightened ostrich defends itself by delivering powerful-deadly kicks to the predator.

Learn more about some other birds from our royal penguin facts and emu facts pages.

Common Ostrich Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a common ostrich?

The common ostrich is a bird.

What class of animal does a common ostrich belong to?

The common ostrich belongs to the bird or Aves class of animal and is a species of ostrich.

How many common ostriches are there in the world?

The population size of the species is unknown. However, the IUNC Red List of Threatened Species has classified common ostriches as species of Least Concern.

Where does a common ostrich live?

The common ostrich range occupies savannas, the Sahel of Africa, and the northern and southern parts of the equatorial forest zone.

What is a common ostrich's habitat?

The common ostrich habitat includes open lands, semi-deserts, and true deserts.

Who does common ostriches live with?

Ostriches live in herds that generally contain around eight to 30 birds.

How long does a common ostrich live?

Ostriches have a great lifespan and live up to 30-50 years.

How do they reproduce?

Common ostriches (Struthio camelus) reach sexual maturity when they are two to three years old.  Female ostriches, also called hens, mature six months earlier than the males. During the breeding season, the males are extremely territorial and chase other males away to establish dominance over the herd. The one male that successfully exerts dominance over other male ostriches is referred to as the Alpha male, and the female who pairs up with the Alpha male is considered as the dominant female of the herd.  Male ostriches are polygamous which means a single male ostrich mates with several female ostriches but pairs up with the dominant female hen. The eggs are laid in a single communal nest, dug 12-14 in (30-60 cm) deep into the ground. The nest consists of nearly 60 eggs, given that all the females lay their eggs in it. Both the males and the females of this species incubate the eggs for a period of 42 days. The male ostrich takes care of all the eggs during the night, and the female ostriches take turns during the day. Every female ostrich can identify her own eggs among the nest.

An ostrich is the world's largest bird, and their eggs are the largest compared to other living birds as well. Their eggs are about 6 in (15.2 cm) tall and weigh approximately 3 lb (1.3 kg). Once the eggs are hatched, each parent teaches their chicks basic survival skills and are very protective of them.

What is their conservation status?

The IUNC Red List of Threatened Species has classified common ostriches (Struthio camelus) as a species of Least Concern. However, the population of wild ostriches has decreased a lot over the last 200-150 years. The Arabian ostrich became extinct around 1966 because of the hunting activities carried out in the Middle East. The population of North African ostriches has declined at a rapid rate and is now classified as Critically Endangered. The population size of common ostriches has remained stable over the past few years, mainly because most of them live on farms or reserves. Here they are looked after and given proper care.

During the 18th century, the demand for ostrich feathers nearly led to the extinction of the species. Fortunately, ostrich farms became really popular and the population began increasing again. If it weren't for these farming houses, the world's largest bird would be now extinct.

Common Ostrich Fun Facts

What does the common ostrich look like?

Common ostriches are known for their prodigious size. They have long legs and necks. The males have black-white feathers, and the females have brown-gray feathers. They do not have feathers covering their necks and legs which leaves them almost bare. The females have pink-reddish thighs and necks. The feet of an ostrich are covered in scales and they have two toes on each foot with long, sharp, black nails. Usually, the outer toe does not have a nail. Their eyes are 2 in (5 cm) in diameter and is five times bigger than the human eye or any other land animal. Their eyes are accompanied by beautiful long lashes that prevent dust, sand, or dirt from entering inside and they have a nictating membrane as well, which acts like a windscreen-wiper to help keep their eyes moist and clean. Their beak color varies from gray, brown, and pink-orange. The males usually have pinkish beaks that attract female ostriches.

The physical characteristics of these birds mainly depend on their subspecies. Male birds grow larger than the females. As ostriches are flightless birds, their feathers are not stiff and locked together but are very soft and light which contributes to their high running speed. Young chicks are gray-brown in color and are covered with dark brown spots.

Fun facts about the common ostrich for kids.

How cute are they?

Ostriches have beautiful eyes, but they are not cute at all. Their feet have long and thick toes with large black nails, nearly bare legs, and necks. They look aggressive and uninviting.  The only time ostriches look cute is when they're young chicks.

How do they communicate?

An ostrich has an impressive vocal repertoire. It includes a variety of sounds used to communicate with other ostriches such as snorts, whistles, bill-snapping, and guttural noises. The males, in particular, can produce a loud sound known as 'booming,' mostly used during displays or to alert their herd and other animals about potential predators. It is as loud as the roar of a lion and can be heard miles away from its original source. During the breeding season, male ostriches communicate and try to impress the females by bowing before them and flapping their wings back and forth.

How big is a common ostrich?

A common ostrich is 7-9 ft (2.1-3 m) tall.

The common ostrich is almost 10 times the size of a common buzzard.

How fast can a common ostrich fly?

Common ostriches cannot fly but are strong and fast runners. They can run 43 mph (69.2 kph) and cover at least 31 mi (49.8 km) within an hour. Their strong, powerful, and long legs can cover a distance of 12-16 ft (3.6-4.8 m) in a single stride.

How much does a common ostrich weigh?

A common ostrich weighs 220-350 lb (99.7-158 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male ostrich is called a rooster or cock, and the female ostrich is called a hen.

What would you call a baby common ostrich?

The baby of a common ostrich is called a chick.

What do they eat?

Ostriches are omnivores, and the common ostrich diet includes grains, grass, shrubs, fruits, and seeds. They occasionally eat insects and reptiles such as locusts, grasshoppers, lizards. Ostriches of this species can go days without consuming water and survive by depending on metabolic water ingested from plants.

Animals like the spotted hyenas pose a threat to this species and preys on them.

Are they dangerous?

Yes, they are dangerous as ostriches are proud and aggressive birds. Approaching them or their nests without precautions is a bad idea because if they consider you as a threat to their chicks or a predator, they might attack you. If they do attack you, there's literally nothing you can do to escape or save yourself, given that they are very strong, powerful, and the world's fastest bird. Their kicks have enough power to kill a human or even a lion with a single blow.

Would they make a good pet?

Absolutely not! Ostriches like living in open lands and deserts with their herd. Keeping them in a small-limited area would trigger their aggressive side. Unless you own acres of land and can afford to look after a dozen tall birds, keeping an ostrich as a pet is not the best idea.

Did you know...

Ostriches use their wings as rudders to change directions while running. This helps them change directions without slowing down.

In ancient Egypt, ostriches were used to pull chariots because of their size.

Contrary to popular belief and myth, ostriches do not stick or bury their heads in the sand when threatened. They just lay their necks and head flat on the ground. Myths about ostriches having multiple hearts are also false. They have one heart.

Ostrich eggs weigh twice as much as a dozen chicken eggs! They can also abandon their eggs when they sense danger around it.

How big is an ostrich egg?

An ostrich egg is about 6 in (15.2 cm) tall and weighs approximately 3 lb (1.3 kg).

Why do common ostriches fly into windows?

Common ostriches are inquisitive birds and always want to know more of what they observe. Vehicles may be something that piques their curiosity, and so to find out more about it, they approach and fly into its windows.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including greater flamingo facts or common kingfisher facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our free printable Common ostrich coloring pages.

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