Family Ostriches (Struthionidae)

Least Concern

Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus)


French: Autruche d’Afrique German: Strauß Spanish: Avestruz común
Other common names: Ostrich (when lumped with S. molybdophanes)

Struthio Camelus


, 1758,

Syria, Arabia, Libya, Africa = Sennar (south-east Sudan)


Previously considered conspecific with S. molybdophanes but the two differ significantly in plumage and bare parts, genetically and behaviourally. Since turn of century both commonly given species status, and this view accepted here. Distinguished from S. molybdophanes by pink, reddish or pinkish-grey vs strong grey-blue neck and legs (3); paler black plumage (1); lack of black scutes on lower tarsi (1); dark brown vs pale brownish-grey eye (greyish-blue in female) (1); crown with short, stiff feathering vs bare crown (2); largely parapatric distribution #R#R (3). Genetic study#R also strongly supports this separation. S race australis, with bluish neck, sometimes suggested to be a separate species, but differences are less marked than those of molybdophanes, in addition to which it appears genetically very similar to nominate and especially massaicus#R#R. Race †syriacus (Arabia), closely related to nominate#R, extinct probably since 1960s. NW populations (Río de Oro) previously separated in race spatzi on basis of different pattern and structure of pores in eggshells, but detected differences now attributed to individual variation#R#R#R. Three extant subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. c. syriacus#R Rothschild, 1919 – deserts of Syria and Arabia.
  • S. c. camelus#R Linnaeus, 1758 – W & S Sahara, and Sahel, from Mauritania E to Sudan and Eritrea, S to N Uganda.
  • S. c. massaicus#R Neumann, 1898 – S Kenya S to Tanzania.
  • S. c. australis#R Gurney, Sr, 1868 – S Angola E to Zimbabwe and S Mozambique, and S to W & N South Africa.
  • Introduced to other parts of South Africa and locally in NW & SC Australia.

    Descriptive notes

    Male 210–275 cm, 100–156 kg; female 175–190 cm, 90–110 kg. Unmistakable, the largest bird species; wholly terrestrial, flightless. Male nominate race... read more


    Male gives “Booming” calls, typically a deep "boo boo booooh hooo" repeated... read more


    Variety of open, semi-arid plains, from desert to savanna; also open woodland. Does not require... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly herbivorous, taking grasses, seeds and leaves; succulent plants very important in drier areas. Also eats some insects and small... read more


    Season and strategy vary with region. Breeds mainly during start of rains, e.g. Jun–Oct in E Africa (Mar–Apr and Aug–Oct... read more


    Sedentary or nomadic, depending on habitat. In moister regions, for exampe near Nairobi, Kenya, the... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Frequent to locally abundant throughout most of range; rare at extremities of range. Preyed upon by lions locally but at least one... read more

    Recommended citation

    Folch, A., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 April 2020).