The common ostrich is a source of great interest to many animal lovers. Though the word “common” is in its name, it’s not too often the average person actually gets to see this unique-looking, flightless bird in the flesh. They’re also far from common in their capabilities, though—ostriches are the world’s fastest bird, being able to run at speeds up to 70 kilometers per hour.
In this post, we’re going to get the binoculars out on this majestic, fascinating bird. We’ll explore the ostrich’s origins, diet, habitat, and more.
Quick Facts About the Common Ostrich
Common ostrich/Struthio camelus
Place of Origin:
Meat, feathers, hide, eggs
Cock (Male) Size:
Hen (Female) Size:
Black & white (male), dull gray/brown (female)
Desert and savannah temperatures
Meat, clothing, eggs
Common Ostrich Origins
The common ostrich originates from Africa. Historically, they roamed around East Africa, north and south of the Sahara, south of the African rainforest belt, and also on the Western Asian Peninsular today known as Anatolia.
The domestication of the common ostrich began in the 19th century when demand for their feathers for fashion purposes began to boom.
Common Ostrich Characteristics
The common ostrich is perhaps most famous for its long legs. Ostriches tower over other birds as the world’s tallest and largest bird—a male can reach heights of up to nine feet. Their legs serve a range of important purposes for the ostrich in addition to helping them reach immense running speeds.
For one, they greatly aid in helping the vigilant ostrich keep an eye out for predators. Ostriches are naturally highly alert creatures, especially when accompanied by their young. Couple this with their huge eyeballs—again, the largest of any bird—and you’ve got an animal that can see quite literally for miles.
Secondly, the ostrich’s legs can be a powerful weapon when the ostrich feels threatened. One kick has the power to kill even the deadliest of foes, including a human being! In addition to this, the ostrich’s legs are important for helping them keep their balance.
There is some debate as to whether or not ostriches make good pets. Ostriches are naturally territorial, suspicious, not overly intelligent and as such, may perceive even the gentlest of advances as a threat. That said, some people do successfully raise ostriches as pets.
Throughout history, ostriches have been used for their feathers. In Victorian times, there was a boom in demand for ostrich feathers to fit in with the era’s fashion trends. For centuries, ostrich feathers were even popular at funerals, their presence at which came to signify “respectability”.
While they’re also sometimes raised for meat, some farmers choose to raise ostriches for eggs. Some ostrich ranches in the U.S. sell free-range ostrich eggs during certain “laying” periods.
Appearance & Varieties
Male ostriches have black and white feathers. By contrast, females are brown or greyish in color. The male is also somewhat taller and heavier than the female, standing at between 6.9 and 9 feet tall and weighing between 220 and 350 pounds. Females are often around 5.7 to 6.2 feet tall and weigh approximately 198 to 220 pounds.
In keeping with their long legs, ostrich necks are also long and are colored either grey, pink, or brown. There are three breeds that fall under the common ostrich umbrella. These are the North African/Red-necked ostrich, the South African ostrich, and the Masai ostrich. This accounts for the differences in the leg and neck coloring.
Ostriches roam savannahs and deserts in different parts of Africa, which accounts for how well they can handle the heat—ostriches can withstand temperatures of up to around 132 degrees Fahrenheit. Ostriches live on open land and can frequently be seen hanging out close to zebras, giraffes, and other animals.
Ostriches don’t need to drink water every day as they can get all their hydration from plants, which make up a large part of their diet. As omnivores, they also eat snakes, lizards, insects, and rodents. Though they don’t need to drink water, they sometimes do nonetheless and very much enjoy bathing in water holes.
In terms of population, the ostrich population is currently in decline. In the wild, there are around 150,000 ostriches remaining, with some ostrich breeds now extinct. This is a result of the aggressive pursuit of ostriches for their feathers in the past. That said, they are of the least concern on the extinction scale due to ostriches being farmed around the world.
Are Common Ostriches Good for Small-Scale Farming?
Many farmers have successfully raised ostriches for financial purposes, particularly for eggs. Ostrich eggs are often viewed as something of a novelty, and as such, farmers charge more for ostrich eggs than they would chicken eggs. On average, a single fresh ostrich egg can be sold for around $30.
Ostrich egg farmers also take into account the bird’s long lifespan, meaning they can produce these eggs over a number of years. Egg farming allows farmers to raise and nurture their ostriches for several years.
Though not famed for its intelligence or affinity towards humans, there’s a great deal of cool stuff to learn about the magnificent common ostrich (sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, right?).
This powerful bird may not be the best option for those looking for a cuddle buddy or beginner pet, but those with the space and know-how have been able to welcome an ostrich into their lives, whether on a ranch or in their (large) backyard. If you’re thinking of doing the same, just be sure to get the lowdown on their needs and how best to raise them risk-free.
- Zebras and Ostriches: A Symbiotic Relationship
- Can You Ride an Ostrich? Is it Ethical?
- How Tall Is an Ostrich? (Height, Weight, and Size)
Featured Image Credit: K. Sweet, Shutterstock