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Scientific name: Struthio camelus

Other common names: Common Ostrich; African Black Ostrich

The basics:
The Ostrich is the largest living species of bird, and is one of the most instantly recognized avians in the world. Although the once widespread Middle Eastern subspecies was apparently hunted to extinction by the mid 1940s, the Common Ostrich continues to be a successful, visible bird over a wide area of open habitat in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

At times, the Ostrich has also been an economically important bird which has become infamous over the years for its place in “boom and bust” speculative trading. The birds were first hunted and then farmed for their feathers, one of the most valuable exports from South Africa in the early 20th century – quite a claim, when you consider that two of the other top exports from that nation were diamonds and gold. As the practice of wearing feathers became distasteful, the market collapsed. The chaos of two world wars didn't help either. A second boom came to North America in the late 1980s and early 90s, when ostrich breeders were selling the birds to other beginning breeders at inflated prices that made it impossible to produce meat or leather at a profit. This pyramid scheme collapsed of its own weight. Today, people are more cautious, and responsible breeders will identify a market for the birds, meat, or leather they produce before they buy or sell birds. An organization like the American Ostrich Association should probably be your first step if you plan to keep or breed Ostriches.

Everyone knows the Ostrich – an eight foot tall bird with a naked head and neck and only two toes on its powerful feet. The adult males have a mostly black plumage accented by white feathers in the tail and wings, while the females are more of a grayish-brown.

As of 2014, Somali Ostrich (S.molybdophanes) has been recognized as a separate species which is easily told apart from the Common Ostrich thanks to its grayish-blue neck and thighs. The Somali male's skin will turn a deeper blue in those areas during the breeding season.

Average weight:
68 - 159 kilograms (150 - 350 lbs.)

25 years

Like other birds that spend a lot of time on the ground, Ostriches may need a de-worming schedule. You will want an experienced veterinarian who is capable of handling a large, dangerous animal. Get a referral from other Ostrich breeders.

Behavior / temperament:
Ostriches are large, curious, and entertaining. Their behavior is fun to watch. They just look silly performing simple activities like rolling around in the dust bath. Their breeding behavior can be fascinating, with the females laying eggs in a single community nest and the male spending much of his time sitting on those eggs, especially at night. However, there's a dark side to the protective male, since he can become aggressive and even dangerous toward other males or toward humans. Because of the size of the bird, even a kick from a female can be painful. For that reason, Ostriches can only be recommended to experienced livestock keepers who are willing to get hands-on experience from more advanced Ostrich breeders.

The social behavior of the Somali Ostrich may be different, since they are usually seen in pairs rather than in the flocks favored by Common Ostrich. However, you are far less likely to encounter them in captivity.

A pair or trio of Ostriches requires 5,000 square feet of range or even more. You must have proper fencing to make sure that these birds, especially the aggressive breeding males, do not escape. Birds on other people's property or on public highways have, unfortunately, sometimes been shot by frightened or frustrated wildlife officers or members of the public. Make sure that they have shelters. Your Ostriches may have to be taught to use the shelters, by feeding them there – but you'll be glad you did the first time you have a storm advisory and need to secure your birds. Don't forget the need for a huge sand pit to give them a good dust bathing spot.

Ostriches have a reputation for trying to eat anything, up to and including bags of cement mix, so be cautious about what you leave out in a wheelbarrow (or anywhere else) within reach of their long necks. They are grazing animals that have no crop, so they swallow small stones to help grind up the grains they eat. Their wild diet is tough and high in fiber. You are strongly encouraged to offer a pellet formulated specifically for Ostriches, supplemented with alfalfa or other browse, and treats like broccoli and carrot. The estimates for how much water Ostriches will drink is all over the map, from a claim that they can get all their water from their green food to a statement that they will drink several gallons a day. We strongly suggest you always have plenty of clean water available to your Ostriches, and they'll take what they need.

Written by Elaine Radford


Ostrich meat, ostrich egg, meat, great adaptability


gastrointestinal perforation, upper respiratory problems, low temperatures, potentially lethal kick


large living space, strange flightless beasts, anger management issues

Ostrich Health Tip


From dekkertjie Sep 29 2015 11:18AM


Ostrich Behavior Tip


From jadielyn Mar 1 2014 10:24AM


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