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Species Guide
A photo of a Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus), male
Common Ostrich, Male

Common Ostrich

Struthio camelus

The common ostrich (Struthio camelus), the planet's largest bird, is a flightless avian native to Africa. It is a member of the ratite family, which includes other flightless birds like emus and kiwis. The ostrich is known for its impressive size, long neck, and powerful legs, which allow it to reach speeds of up to 70 km/h (43 mph) in short bursts. Males are typically larger than females and boast striking black and white plumage, while females are predominantly brown.

Identification Tips

Adult males are characterized by their black feathers with white wings and tail. Females and young males are more subdued in color, displaying grayish-brown feathers. The ostrich's head and neck are sparsely feathered, revealing their skin, which can vary from gray to pinkish tones. They have large eyes, adapted for spotting predators at great distances, and long, muscular legs with two-toed feet.


Ostriches are adapted to a variety of habitats, from savannas to deserts across Africa. They are capable of surviving in extreme conditions, from the scorching heat to areas with scarce water.


Once found throughout Africa and parts of Asia, the common ostrich's range has been reduced due to hunting and habitat loss. Today, they are primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, with some populations in North Africa and the Sahel region.


Ostriches are nomadic, often traveling in small groups that can range from 5 to 50 individuals. They are known for their running ability, using their speed as a primary defense mechanism. When threatened, they may lie flat against the ground to avoid detection or deliver powerful kicks to defend themselves.

Song & Calls

The common ostrich produces distinct vocalizations, including booming calls by males during the mating season, which can be heard over long distances.


Ostriches have complex mating behaviors, with males courting females through elaborate dances and displays. They are known for their communal nesting practices, where several females may lay their eggs in a single nest for incubation.

Similar Species

The Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes), once considered a subspecies, is now recognized as a separate species. It can be distinguished by its blue-gray neck and legs.

Diet and Feeding

Ostriches are omnivores, primarily consuming plant matter such as seeds, shrubs, and fruits, but they will also eat invertebrates and small reptiles. They lack teeth and ingest pebbles to aid in grinding food in their gizzard.

Conservation status

The common ostrich is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, though certain subspecies, like the North African ostrich, are under greater threat and are listed in CITES Appendix I, which restricts international trade.

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Common Ostrich Fun Facts

Did you know?
The Ostrich is the largest bird in the world.

Common Ostriches on Birda

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