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Wild Somali ostriches (Struthio camelus molybdophanes)

Ostrich_Ngorongoro_JohnB_1920[1] Somali ostrich

Once found all over Africa, Asia and the Arabian Peninsular the wild Somali ostrich has been the victim of extensive hunting, so much so that they’re now only found living in the dry, hot savannas and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

As the largest bird in the world, the Ostrich is flightless, has a very long neck which protrudes from their round bodies with their legs positioned as such to enable the body’s centre of gravity to balance on the long spindly legs, giving them great maneuverability and speed. The ostrich can reach speeds in excess of 70 km/h or 43 mph with a single stride of 3 to 5 m or 9.8 to 16.4 ft!

It’s an old wives’ tale… ostriches don’t ‘bury their heads in the sand’ but when they feel threatened they lie down with their heads resting on the ground, giving the appearance of having buried it’s head in the sand because the ostrich’s head and neck blend in with the sand.

Image64-001[1] Somali Ostrich Courtesy Chris Worden

At a glance… Somali Ostrich facts:

  • Shaggy looking feathers hang loosely and do not ‘hook’ together like feathers on other species
  • males are black and white and the females are light brown in colour
  • ostriches use their feet to fight by kicking forward – there’s enough strength in a kick to kill a lion
  • ostriches are omnivores but tend to favour roots, leaves and seeds. They’re diet also consists of lizards, locusts, snakes and rodents. They eat sand and pebbles which aid digestion of food inside their ‘gizzard’ (a small pouch where food is ripped and crushed before it arrives in the stomach
  • ostriches get their water through the digestion of plants so don’t need water on a daily basis but will drink at a watering hole when they find one
  • the males are called roosters or cocks
  • females are called hens
  • a group of ostriches is referred to as a ‘flock’ – up to 100 birds but generally around 10 birds is more common. Within the ‘flock ‘ there’s a dominant male and a dominant female in addition to several other females and single one males come and go during mating season
  • a male ostrich will flap its wings and bow displaying its plumage to attract a female. When a male is ready to mate its beak and shins (an sometimes its neck) turn red. A female’s feathers become a silver colour
  • young ostriches are larger than any other baby bird with chicks often as large as a fully grown chicken. Both sexes look after the young. If threatened by attack the young will run for cover the with female and the male ostrich will lure the predator away. A baby ostrich has just about reached it’s fully grown height, reaching maturity at between 3-4 years old.
  • ostrich eggs have a diameter of 15 cm or 6 ins. weighing up to 1.3 kg or 3lbs. The ostriches lay their eggs in a ‘dump nest’ or communal nest which can accommodate up to 60 eggs at any time. Both male and female ostriches will sit on the eggs until they hatch out – between 42 to 46 days
  • an ostrich’s life expectancy is between 50 and 75 years.

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