Common Ostrich

Scientific Name: Struthio camelus

Habitat: While the Common Ostrich can be found all across the African continent, the South African subspecies that we have at the Utica Zoo (S. c. australis) is predominantly found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Diet: While the common ostrich primarily graze on roots, flowers, and fruits, they have been known to eat insects, lizards, and small tortoises as well.

Size: Up to 9 feet high / 1.2 to 2 feet long / 6.6 foot wingspan

Weight: 140 to 320 pounds

Lifespan: 30 to 40 years in the wild / up to 50 years in human care

Conservation Status:

LEAST CONCERN

Our Common Ostrich:

Boomer (Male) – Estimated Date of Birth 1999

About Commmon Ostriches:

Although Ostrich numbers have drastically declined over the last 200 years, they are still classed as ‘Least Concern’. 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.

Did You Know?!

  • Common Ostriches can run at a top speed of 43 miles per hour for a short distance, but can keep up a pace of about 30 miles per hour for a good amount of time. Just one stride can be 10 to 16 feet!
  • A kick from a common ostrich – which have 4-inch claws on each foot – is so powerful that it can kill a lion. 
  • When a Common Ostrich eats, food is collected in the crop at the top of their throat until there is a large enough lump to slide down their throat. Consequently, Ostriches tend to swallow just about anything from plants and small animals to sand, pebbles, and small stones – the latter three of which help to grind up food in an Ostrich’s gizzard. Because of this, Ostriches are able to digest quite a lot of materials that other animals can’t eat. 
  • A Common Ostrich’s tough intensities are up to 46 feet in length. This allows an Ostrich to absorb as many nutrients as possible from the materials that pass through it. In fact, Ostriches do not need to drink water because they can absorb all the water that they need from the plants that they eat. However, they will still take a drink from a watering hole if given the opportunity. 
  • When seeking mates, male Common Ostriches have a fascinating ritual. The black-and-white males use their dramatic coloring to attract the more muted, light-brown females. The male will perform a display where they sink low to the ground right before shaking the feathers on their wings while moving their tail up and down. After this, the male will spread out his wings and stamp toward the female to impress her. 
  • Male and female ostriches share the responsibility of incubating the eggs. To help with camouflage, the dark feathered males will sit on the nest during the night while the light colored females will sit on the nest during the day. 
  • While it is typically the dominant female and territorial male of an ostrich flock that mate and create a nest – which is little more than a shallow depression scratched into the dirt by the male – others will mate and proceed to lay their eggs in the “dominant” nest. However, the eggs of the dominant female are always positioned to the center of the nest to ensure the best incubation and protection. 
  • Ostrich eggs are approximately 6 inches in length, 5 inches across, and weigh about 3 pounds. One ostrich will lay between 7 and 10 eggs in a season, but a communal nest may hold up to 60 eggs from an assortment of ostriches. 
  • When different groups of ostriches meet, they may challenge each other with short chases. The winning group takes all of losing group’s the chicks with them. This can lead to some “nurseries” ending up with 300 ostrich chicks with only a few adults to care for all of them. 
  • An Ostrich’s eye is almost 2 inches across, making it the largest eye of any land animal. 
  • An ostrich is the only bird that has 2 toes. All other birds have either 3 or 4 toes. 
  • Ostriches hold their wings out when they run to help them balance. 
  • While ostriches can gather into groups of 100 or more, most flocks are around 10.
  • Contrary to popular myth, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand! When they sense danger and cannot run away, an ostrich flops to the ground and remains still with its head flat on the ground. Since their heads are lightly colored, they blend in with the sand making it appear like it is buried.