Ostriches are the largest living flightless birds on earth. They are known for their exceptionally long slender necks anchoring out of their round bodies.
Their neck comprises almost half of their total height.
Another feature that makes them so strikingly different are their strong long legs. These birds can cover 10 to 15 feet in only a single stride.
Keep reading further to find out about the different species of Ostriches.
Ostrich belongs to the family of Struthionidae and the genus Struthio. There are two species of Ostriches, Struthio camelus and Struthio molybdophanes.
Struthio Camelus is also known as the Common Ostrich. On the other hand, Struthio Molybdophanes are commonly known as Somali Ostrich.
Common Ostrich also has four further different subspecies. These subspecies are Masai Ostrich, North African Ostrich, South African Ostrich, and Arabian Ostrich.
Also read: Ostrich Egg – Some Amazing Facts
Let’s dive deeper into knowing what makes each of these individual species so unique.
Somali Ostrich is also known as the blue-necked Ostrich.
Somali Ostrich was previously considered a subspecies of the Common Ostrich (Struthio Camelus). Later, it was discovered that it could be classified as a distinct species, Struthio Molybdophanes.
Somali Ostriches are widespread in the Horn of Africa and cover almost most of Somalia. They are densely populated in Kenya, southern Djibouti, and parts of Ethiopia.
They share a lot of common features with other Ostriches like long necks and long bare legs.
However, certain features make them distinct from other species. The bare skin of the Somali Ostrich appears bluish-pink, and it can take on a bright blue color in the mating season.
The absence of a thick white ring around the neck is another very prominent distinguishable feature. Somali Ostriches can weigh up to 100kgs in captivity.
Somali female ostriches are found to be bigger than their males.
This is in contrast to common ostrich females as they are smaller in size. But both the females of Common Ostrich and Somali Ostrich have plumage that is brown.
Somali Ostriches are herbivores like Common Ostriches. However, Common Ostriches are more of grazers. Somali Ostriches are known to be hunted for their meat.
This hunting is thus leading to a gradual shrinking of their population, but it has not yet reached significant numbers for any wildlife conservation facilities to be alarmed.
Common Ostrich is the larger of the two extant species of Ostriches. They are majorly found in Africa.
They prefer to live in open lands, so most of them are found in the Savannas and Sahels of Africa.
Common Ostriches are often found living and traveling in herds with animals that graze like them, for example, Zebras.
During winters, they prefer to stay in pairs. Male Ostriches reach the age of maturity of 2 to 4 years. Males occupy an area of approximately 18 km sq. as their territory.
The mating season starts before Summer and ends before winter, but it also depends on the geographical location.
Females lay eggs in a communal nest. During the day, females incubate eggs, while at night, males are responsible for incubation.
Common Ostriches feed on grasses, leaves, small succulents, and flowers.
Like all Ostriches, they are herbivores, but they do occasionally eat small insects like locusts. Ostriches lack teeth, so they eat pebbles and use them to grind the food in their mouth.
Common ostriches can survive even after losing up to 25% of their total body weight when dehydrated. This ability makes it possible for Common Ostriches to live easily without water for several days.
Common Ostriches have an amazing vision and can also sense very soft noises at a great distance.
This ability comes into use when protecting themselves against their fast predators like lions. They can also run very fast because of their long muscular legs.
Common Ostrich has four subspecies, as mentioned earlier. Each of these subspecies is discussed in detail ahead.
North African Ostrich
North African Ostrich is also known as the Barbary Ostrich.
They are the largest subspecies of the Common Ostrich. Hence, they are the largest living bird. Their necks are of distinct pinkish-red color. Thus, they are also called the Red-neck Ostrich.
They weigh up to 150kgs, and their height can go up to 9 ft.
The male’s plumage is of beautiful black color with a little bit of contrasting white on the sides. The plumage of a female is lighter in color as compared to males. Females almost look brown.
North African Ostriches are found in West and Northeast Africa. They were also found in the areas north of Egypt and southern Morocco, but they have started to decline recently.
North African Ostriches are now listed as critically endangered and included in the CITES appendix I.
They have completely disappeared from the Sahel-Saharan range, where their population was in abundance once. Hence, the Sahara conservation fund started a North African Ostrich recovery program in 2008.
They aim to produce as many Ostriches as they can in their breeding facilities in Niger. They also provide all the technical support needed to help adapt their Ostriches to their harsh natural habitat. They are also ensuring that the Ostriches are reintroduced in their habitat as safely as possible.
South African Ostrich
South African Ostrich is also commonly known as the Black-necked Ostrich or the Cape Ostrich.
In appearance, the South African Ostrich is tall with a curved neck and long legs. Like all other ostriches, the South African Ostrich is unable to fly but can run real fast.
When it comes to diet, the South African Ostrich loves feeding on juicy berries or greens. They sometimes eat a few insects and crawlers when other food options are not available.
One interesting fact about the South African Ostrich is that it is known for swallowing pebbles. This way, they can easily break down the hard-to-digest food particles.
Like most birds, Ostriches are also monogamous. Once they found their partner, they stick with them for the rest of their lives. Male ostriches also go to the extreme length of sharing incubating duties with their partners.
When it comes to wooing their female counterparts, male Ostrich gathers in groups, performs multiple dance routines, and makes hissing sounds to impress them.
On average, the South African Ostrich lays around 18-20 massive eggs.
Masai Ostrich is also known as the East African Ostrich. Like North African Ostrich, they are also another red-necked sub-species of the Common.
Their male can grow up to 3 m and weigh roughly 150 kgs. Females are slightly smaller in size as well as height.
They are known for their distinct large eyes, measuring almost 50mm in diameter. They also possess very long eyelashes and cover a very vast vision field.
This aids them in hunting, and along with long, strong legs, they can run at very high speeds. They can run at speeds of 70 to 80 km/h.
While the feathers on the neck and legs of Masai Ostrich are degenerated, giving them almost a naked appearance, the feathers on their body are also quite soft. This is due to the lack of barb in the plumage.
The color of the plumage of both males and females makes them look very similar to North African Ostrich.
The feathers of males are dark black, and feathers at the peripherals like wings and tails are white. These white feathers serve as decorative feathers to attract females for courtship.
Masai Ostriches are mainly found in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Their habitat can range from dry arid deserts to steep rocky terrains. Masai Ostriches have many adaptations to survive in the arid environment of sub-Saharan Africa.
Their bodies can produce thick waxy mucous in place of watery secretions to prevent water loss.
Their nose can also filter out salts. This ability allows them to consume salty water without succumbing to dehydration.
Their plumage is such that it can adapt to keep their bodies at constant optimal temperature despite the weather outside.
Masai female Ostriches are found to nest in groups. They also practice creating a single Ostrich, known as the major Ostrich, responsible for incubating the eggs of several other minor Ostriches.
Masai Ostriches produce large eggs the size of a grapefruit. Their eggs are in great demand, and their size also attracts predators. Masai Ostriches are mainly herbivores. They consume grasses and succulents.
Arabian Ostrich is the only extinct subspecies of the Common Ostrich. This species is also referred to as the Syrian Ostrich or the Middle eastern Ostrich.
They were found to inhabit the Arabian Peninsula mainly. This bird holds a lot of cultural values owing to its continuation with prehistoric times.
The extinction of this bird is presumed to be brought about by introducing firearms for hunting.
Mitochondrial DNA studies have confirmed that this sub-specie is very close to the North African Ostrich.
The discovery of this information led to several attempts at reintroducing the species but all failed. The last attempt was made in 2004 to introduce it in Negev, Israel.
After reading this blog, we hope that you can easily guide anyone about the different types of ostriches that exist and the ones that are extinct.
These gigantic birds are truly fascinating and the reason why most bird-lovers love to watch and observe them.
Stay tuned to this space for more informational blogs and bird-watching guides.
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