Ostrich Definition | Characteristics & Facts



Ostrich Definition

We can define an ostrich as a large flightless bird native to Africa. It is the largest living species of bird and can reach heights of up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) and weigh up to 320 pounds (145 kilograms).

Ostrich General Characteristics & Facts


Ostriches have long necks, long legs, and two-toed feet. They have a distinctive appearance with their large bodies covered in feathers that are mostly black or brown, although males have white feathers on their wings and tail. The male ostriches also have bold, black-and-white plumage on their necks.


Ostriches have several unique adaptations that help them survive in their environments. Their long legs enable them to run at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour), making them the fastest-running bird. They also have powerful legs that they can use for defense by kicking.


Ostriches are omnivores but primarily feed on plant matter such as grass, leaves, seeds, and flowers. They also eat insects, small reptiles, and rodents. Ostriches have a unique digestive system that allows them to extract water from the vegetation they consume, enabling them to survive in arid regions.


Ostriches are social birds and live in groups called flocks. These flocks usually consist of a dominant male, several females, and their offspring. The male ostriches perform elaborate courtship displays, which include dancing and fluffing their feathers. They also make booming sounds to attract mates.


Female ostriches lay their eggs in a communal nest, which consists of a hole in the ground where several females deposit their eggs. The dominant female incubates the eggs during the day, and the dominant male takes over at night. Ostrich eggs are the largest of any bird species, and a single egg can weigh up to 3.5 pounds (1.6 kilograms).

Conservation status

Ostriches are not currently considered endangered, and their populations are relatively stable. They are found in various countries in Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya. However, habitat loss, hunting, and farming for their feathers, meat, and leather can pose threats to their populations.

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Scientific Classification of Ostrich

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Struthioniformes

Family: Struthionidae

Genus: Struthio

Species: Struthio camelu

Ostrich Physical Characteristics

  1. Size: Ostriches are the largest living bird species, with males (roosters) reaching an average height of 7 to 9 feet (2.1 to 2.7 meters) and weighing around 220 to 350 pounds (100 to 160 kilograms). Females (hens) are slightly smaller, standing about 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) tall and weighing around 140 to 290 pounds (63 to 130 kilograms).
  2. Plumage: Ostriches have unique feathers consisting of soft, loose plumes. The males have predominantly black feathers with white wings and tails, while the females have grayish-brown feathers. The feathers are structurally different from other birds, lacking a central shaft but having long, individual barbs that give them a fluffy appearance.
  3. Neck and Head: Ostriches have long necks, allowing them to reach vegetation on the ground easily. Their small head is equipped with a long, flat beak that they use for foraging and feeding. They have large, round eyes with excellent eyesight, enabling them to detect predators from a distance.
  4. Legs and Feet: Ostriches have long, powerful legs that are perfectly adapted for running. They have two toes on each foot, with a long, claw-like nail on the inner toe. Ostriches are the fastest-running birds and can reach speeds up to 43 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour).
  5. Wings: Although they are flightless, ostriches have small, underdeveloped wings. These wings are used for balance, courtship displays, and providing stability during running. Ostriches also use their wings to shade their bodies and control body temperature.
  6. Body Shape: Ostriches have a large, rounded body with a barrel-shaped chest. Their bodies are covered in fluffy feathers that provide insulation and regulate the temperature in different climates.
  7. Eyes and Eyelashes: Ostriches have strikingly large eyes with thick, long eyelashes. These eyelashes protect their eyes from dust and debris and act as a sensory adaptation against insects.
  8. Voice: Ostriches produce various vocalizations, including booming calls, hisses, and low grunts. Males often make booming sounds during mating displays to attract females and establish dominance.

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Key Locations of Ostrich

  • South Africa
  • Namibia
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Botswana
  • Zimbabwe
  • Ethiopia
  • Other African Countries

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Ostrich FAQs

What does Ostrich eat the Most?

  • Grass:
  • Leaves
  • Seeds
  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Invertebrates

How fast can ostriches run?

Ostriches are the fastest-running birds and can reach speeds up to 43 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour).

Can ostriches fly?

No, ostriches are flightless birds. They have small, underdeveloped wings that are not designed for sustained flight.

How long do ostriches live?

In the wild, ostriches have an average lifespan of 30 to 40 years.

Do male or female ostriches take care of the eggs?

In ostrich society, it is the male who takes on the primary responsibility of incubating the eggs. The male builds a nest in a shallow depression in the ground and incubates the eggs during the day, while the female takes turns at night. This behavior is unique among birds.

How many eggs does an ostrich lay?

Female ostriches lay a large number of eggs, typically ranging from 15 to 60 eggs in a breeding season. However, in a communal nest, several females may lay eggs in the same nest, which can result in a large number of eggs being incubated by a single male.

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