(Struthio camelus)




Facts about this animal

The Ostrich is the largest and strongest of living birds, attaining a height from head to toe of about 2.4 m and a weight of between 63-105kg. Ostriches have a long neck and a small head, with large eyes protected by thick eye-lashes and a short, broad beak. They cannot fly but are fast runners. They spread their small wings when running and have long, powerful legs that are used for defence. They have evolved a cloven hoof consisting of only two toes.


The genders in the Ostrich are easily separable. The adult male has a black body and white curling primaries and tail. The head, neck, flanks and thighs are flesh-pink. Females have a brown body, off-white or brownish-white wings and tail. The neck is more densely feathered than in males. The head, neck, flanks and thighs are pale brown. There are no seasonal differences, except that the bill and tarsus of the male are redder in breeding season.


Ostriches are polygamous with harems consisting of three to five females, all of which lay their eggs in the same nest over a three week period. Thus, a clutch of about 25 eggs is laid in the nest, a shallow scrape, which has been made by the male. The eggs weigh up to 1.5 kg,. Their shell is 2 mm thick. The volume is equivalent to about 20 - 24 hens' eggs. Ostrich mating and egg laying will occur shortly before the onset of the rainy season, so that when the chicks hatch there will be plenty of food to sustain them until they are several months old.

Did you know?
that an ostrich's brain is smaller than one of its eyeballs? The eyeballs are about 5 cm in diameter.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Struthio camelus
Name (English) Ostrich
Name (French) Autruche d'Afrique
Name (German) Strauss
Name (Spanish) Avestruz
Local names Afrikaans: Volstruis
isiXhosa: Inciniba
isiZulu: 'Ntje ki
Swahili: Mbuni
seSotho: Mpse
seTswana: Ntshwe
Somali: Gorayo
CITES Status Populations of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, the Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan: Appendix I, all other populations: not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Valerie Abbott



Range Central, eastern and southern Africa
Habitat Drier and sandy regions
Wild population Unknown, but abundant throughout most of its range (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 1005 reported to ISIS (2005)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 24 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Andrwe Massyn

Why do zoos keep this animal

Except for the sahelo-saharan subspecies, ostriches are not threatened in the wild. zoos keep ostriches primarily for educational purposes, because it is the largest of all birds, because of its peculiar evolutionary adaptation and as an essential part of African savanna or desert exhibits.