The Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus) strides across open plains from the southern tip of Africa to the desert sands of the Sahara. Together with its close relative, the Somali Ostrich (S. molybdophanes), these colossal avians from the Struthionidae family seem completely alien compared to the average songbird. It’s a well-known fact that Ostriches are the world’s largest birds, but just how big are they?
Ostriches can stand as tall as nine feet and weigh over 340 pounds, putting them well above the height and weight of most human beings. These flightless birds use their height to scan for predators and their long legs to travel great distances across the deserts and savannas of Africa.
Ostriches have surprisingly small heads for such a huge bird. In fact, each of their eyes is a similar size to their brain, which doesn’t say much about their intelligence.
Ostriches may not excel at problem-solving, but they are long-lived animals and perfectly adapted to their environment.
Do you want more fascinating facts and figures about the size of the Ostrich? Read on to learn about their height, weight, and much more.
Ostriches can stand up to nine feet tall
Ostriches are the tallest living birds, towering above the next largest species by nearly three feet. Female Ostriches, while tall, are significantly smaller than their male counterparts.
Ostriches may be flightless, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have wings. In fact, these gigantic birds have a wingspan of about six and a half feet (2 m). Ostriches use their wings in several other ways, from maintaining balance to keeping cool and even during elaborate courtship displays.
Male Somali Ostrich spreading its wings in the desert
Ostriches aren’t just tall, they're heavy too. Ostrich chicks already weigh two pounds or more when they hatch from their eggs, which is about the mass of a full-grown male Red-tailed Hawk. The young birds grow fast, reaching about 100 pounds at a year old, and as adults, males can weigh well over 300 pounds.
Unsurprisingly, the world's biggest bird lays the world's largest bird’s egg. In fact, the Guinness World Record for the heaviest Ostrich egg went to a Swedish farming couple who reported an astonishing egg of over five and a half pounds.
It is difficult to get a true picture of an Ostrich’s size until you stand next to one of these magnificent birds. Continue reading to learn how Ostriches compare to human beings.
Close up of an Ostrich egg
The average adult Ostrich is significantly larger than most people. In fact, the largest Ostriches weigh nearly twice as much as the average American Adult. Of course, human weight is incredibly variable, and many humans outweigh the Common Ostrich.
While some people may be heavier, no human has ever been taller than the largest male Ostriches. At 8 ft 11 in (2.72 m), the tallest recorded human being was still a few inches shorter than the world’s biggest bird.
The heaviest animal an Ostrich is likely to pick up is a small lizard. Despite their great size, Ostriches generally feed on very small food items like plants and insects.
Ostriches do not lift heavy objects, and since they dig their nests (rather than build them), they don’t even need to carry twigs and nesting material.
However, with some assistance, Ostriches can support surprisingly heavy weights. Ostrich riding might not be the most popular racing sport, but these birds can certainly carry the mass of a human on their back.
Female Ostrich on red sand dune, Kalahari desert, South Africa
Ostriches seem unnecessarily large when compared with your average songbird. However, these birds are perfectly adapted to their environment and fill a similar niche to the antelopes that share their habitat.
Continue reading to learn why Ostriches have such oversized features.
Ostriches can run at incredible speeds of over 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), which would be impossible without their long, powerfully built legs. Apart from a savage kick, their only means of defense is to flee from large predators like cheetahs and lions.
A long stride length (up to 16 feet) and great stamina also come in handy when these flightless birds need to cover long distances in search of water and rich feeding grounds.
Ostriches have remarkably long necks, complete with 17 cervical vertebrae. Of course, having a long neck is essential for a ground-feeding bird with long legs, but a three-foot (0.9 m) neck has other benefits too. Standing tall above the plains allows them to spot their predators before it’s too late.
Ostriches have the biggest eyes in the bird world. In fact, these impressive animals have some of the largest eyes of any terrestrial vertebrate on the planet, with an axial length roughly equal to the eyes of the Asian Elephant.
A pair of Ostriches in green grassland
Ostriches are significantly larger than any other living bird species. However, much larger species roamed the earth in the not-so-distant past. Elephant Birds were a flightless species from Madagascar that went extinct about a thousand years ago. These gigantic ratites may have weighed as much as 1600 pounds (725 kg) and stood nearly ten feet (3 m) tall!
Continue reading to learn how Ostriches compare with some modern bird species.
Outside of Africa, the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) is the heaviest living bird. These colorful flightless birds from Australia can stand over six feet (1.8 m) tall and weigh up to 140 pounds (65 kg). The Australian Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is not far off, being a few pounds lighter but standing a few inches taller.
However, Africa and Australia aren't the only continents with giant birds. The Greater Rhea (Rhea americana) of South America stands at a very respectable five and a half feet (170 cm) and weighs up to 88 pounds (40 kg). Even further south in Antarctica, the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) stands a few inches shy of four feet (115 cm) and weighs up to 100 pounds (46 kg).
Ostriches can reach impressive speeds of over 40mph
Ostriches and Emus may be similar in appearance, but they differ quite markedly in size. Emus weigh less than half as much as larger Ostriches and stand about three feet (0.9 m) shorter.
The Cassowary of Australia is the second heaviest bird in the world. Together with the Emu, they are also the second tallest species. However, these dangerous birds are much smaller than the average adult Ostrich.
Ostriches are far taller and heavier than American Eagles. However, when it comes to wingspan, the eagles win hands down. With a wingspan of up to eight feet, the American Bald Eagle is much wider than the six-and-a-half-foot wingspan of the Ostrich.
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