Struthionidae – Ostriches
The heaviest, tallest and fastest runners among all birds
Meet the largest and heaviest living bird species on Earth. These flightless birds are native to various regions across Africa and are known for their remarkable size, speed, and unique adaptations to their terrestrial lifestyle.
Ostriches have evolved to thrive on the open savanna and desert plains, where their height, which can reach up to 2.8 meters (9 feet), and excellent eyesight provide an advantage in detecting predators from afar. Their flightlessness is attributed to the absence of a keel on their sternum, which in other birds is the attachment point for the powerful wing muscles necessary for flight. Instead, ostriches have robust legs and two-toed feet, enabling them to run at speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour), making them the fastest runners of any bird.
The wings of ostriches, while small relative to their body size, are not useless. They play important roles in mating displays, shading chicks, balance and maneuvering while running, and body temperature regulation. The lack of flight is more than compensated for by their incredible terrestrial mobility and endurance.
Ostriches are polygamous, with a dominant male maintaining a harem of females. They are ground-nesting birds with communal nests where several females may lay their eggs. The ostrich eggs are the largest of any living bird, but in proportion to their body size, they are actually among the smallest. The male ostrich takes on a significant role in the incubation of the eggs, often incubating them at night while females take turns during the day.
Despite their size and strength, ostriches face threats from human activities. They are hunted for their meat, leather, and feathers, which are valued in fashion and decoration. Additionally, habitat loss due to agricultural expansion and desertification poses significant challenges to their survival.