Struthio Camelus - The Ostrich

The ostrich is a large, flightless bird - the largest living bird on earth. When fully grown it can reach a height of 1.6 metres and weighs over 130 kilograms. The male ostrich has soft black feathers on its back with white primary feathers on its wings and tail, making him easy to spot.

Did you know? The ostrich has the largest eye of any land animal. Its eye measures almost 5cm across.

Females and young ostriches have brown feathers instead of black to camouflage them. Both males and females have bare necks and thighs. This skin is blue or pink in males and pinkish grey in females.

Ostrich have long necks, small heads, large eyes, long, powerful legs, and two toes on each foot. Ostriches have great vision and because of their strong legs can run at 70 km per hour.


Height: They can reach a height of 1.6 m.
Weight: 135 kgs.


Low rainfall areas.


Natural distribution is in the drier regions of Africa, including southern Africa, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. In South Africa, you will see plenty of Ostriches in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape. Oudtshoorn is home to the world's largest ostrich population and a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms.

They can also be found at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve between Pretoria and Johannesburg, Spitskop Nature Reserve just outside Upington in the Northern Cape, and the Groenkloof Nature Reserve in Pretoria, as well as throughout the whole of the Karoo.


Shoots, leaves, flowers and seeds make up most of their diet but they will also eat insects, lizards and other creatures available in their often harsh habitat.


Ostriches are not very social birds. They live in small herds that typically contain less than a dozen birds. Alpha males maintain these herds and mate with the group's lead hen.


Ostriches nest in the dry season. The male will make several shallow scrapes in his territory. The lead female then lays up to 12 eggs over the next 3 weeks.

Other females may lay eggs in this same nest, but only the male and lead female will guard and incubate the eggs. The incubation period is six weeks.

Despite the constant watch of the male and female, less than 10 percent of the eggs will hatch. Those that do are fully developed when hatched.

Hatchlings are fawn in colour with dark brown spots and a 'cape' of down on the back. By the time they are a year old ostriches will reach their full height.


Incubation takes 6 weeks.

Life Expectancy

Ostriches can live to be 30 to 40 years old.


Ostrich chicks have many predators including vulture, hyena and jackal.

Only 15 percent of chicks make it to their first birthday, despite having protection from their parents.


National Geographic; Biodiversity Explorer.

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Where to see Ostrich in their natural habitat?

Want to see ostrich in their natural habitat? In South Africa the ostrich is common in the Karoo. See them in many parks and reserves including...

Conservation Status
Kruger Park's Big 6 Birds
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