Struthioniformes – Ostriches

The heaviest, tallest and fastest runners among all birds

A lineage of birds that have entirely abandoned flight in favor of terrestrial locomotion. Within this order, there are two species of ostrich: the common ostrich (Struthio camelus), which is found across large swathes of Africa, and the Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes), primarily located in the Horn of Africa.

As the largest birds on the planet, ostriches are imposing figures on the African landscape. They have long, powerful legs that are adapted for running at high speeds over short distances, reaching up to 70 kilometers per hour (43 miles per hour), making them the fastest birds on land. Their two-toed feet are another adaptation for running, with the large toe bearing a formidable nail resembling a hoof.

Ostriches’ flightlessness is due to the absence of a keel on their sternum, which is where flight muscles attach in flying birds. While small and inadequate for flight, their wings are used for important behaviors such as mating displays, shading chicks, and maneuvering while running.

Their plumage differs between the sexes, with males typically displaying bold black and white coloring, which is used to attract females during the breeding season, while females and young ostriches are dressed in more subdued browns and grays for camouflage.

Ostrich eggs are the largest of any living bird, but when their size is considered relative to the size of the adult bird, they are actually among the smallest. Each egg can weigh as much as 1.4 kilograms (3 pounds).

Despite their size and strength, ostriches face threats from human activities. They are hunted for their skin, which is prized in the leather industry, and their feathers, which are used for decoration. Moreover, their eggs, considered a delicacy, are often collected from the wild. Habitat loss and fragmentation further complicate their survival as agricultural development encroaches on their natural savanna habitats.