Ostriches are social and live in flocks of 5-50 individuals, both male and female, who defend their home range (usually 2-15 sq. km). They are also social with other animals and will often mix with herds of zebra or other hoofstock. During breeding season the males will compete for dominance, the winner mating with most of the females himself. All the females share a communal nest that can contain 15-60 eggs, each one 6-8 inches long and 3 lbs. Males guard the nest during the night and females guard it during the day. Once the eggs hatch, the young leave the nest almost immediately and grow a foot every month until they reach 5-6 feet, at which point growth slows down.

Ostriches are the only bird with only two, uneven toes on each foot. They have a field of vision approaching 360 degrees and protected ears, allowing them to stay extremely alert. They usually run from danger but will fight and can be very dangerous due to their heavy toenails.


Struthio camelus

Distribution: Savanna, grassland and shrubland in central and southern Africa

Diet in the Wild: Leaves, seeds and occasionally insects and lizards

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Grain

Status: Least concern, population decreasing

Threats: Habitat loss, hunting

Interesting Facts:

Ostriches swallow sand, small stones and pebbles which they store in their gizzard and use to help break down their food.

Ostriches are the largest birds on earth, and their eggs are the largest bird eggs on earth. Each egg can weigh as much as two dozen chicken eggs!

Ostriches don’t bury their heads in the ground, as is commonly believed. They are known to press their neck and head to the ground when they sense danger though, giving the appearance from a distance that their head is buried.


Ollie the ostrich is one of our more spoiled animals at the zoo. She lives in the large African yard with some of our African hoof stock and birds, but Ollie is the only animal allowed to explore the yard all day and night. When it is cold and dry outside, the keepers have to apply lotion to her legs so they do not crack and surprisingly she enjoys it. She will let keepers come up to her and will even come when called by her name. She loves to eat clover and chunks of apple and will specifically court our mammals curator when around.

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