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Is an Ostrich a Bird or a Mammal?

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Ostrich standing in a dry field

You’ve seen ostriches in zoos, and maybe even on the side of the road, according to where you live. Have you ever wondered whether an animal that size would be considered a bird or a mammal? If you have, you’re not alone. To answer the question, yes, an ostrich is a bird.

But, what else can we say about ostriches? In this blog, we’ll discuss how ostriches are birds, a few interesting facts you might not have known about them, and much more.

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Are Ostriches Birds?

Ostrich with her eggs
Image Credit: LionMountain, Pixabay

When the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about the ostrich, he said he didn’t know whether to call it a mammal or a bird. Since then, we’ve come to realize that it’s indeed a large, flightless bird. Of course, it can’t fly, but it is indeed part of the bird family.

Many people don’t realize that during years of hunting, the ostrich almost became extinct and was endangered. However, when afforded the right protections, the flightless bird flourished once again and can now be seen everywhere in Africa.

How Do You Know an Ostrich Is a Bird?

There are a few facts that point to the ostrich being a bird. First, they have feathers, just like any other bird does. It doesn’t have fur; it has feathers.

Even though the ostrich doesn’t fly, and his wings aren’t that strong, he still has wings just as other birds do. The ostrich also has a beak, but he has no fangs or teeth, just as other birds do.

Finally, birds and reptiles lay eggs. An ostrich is clearly not a reptile, so that leaves him being a bird.

What Does an Ostrich Look Like?


Most people would know an ostrich just by its incredible size. The male of the species grows to around 9 feet tall and weighs in at a little over 280 pounds. The female of the species reaches a height of 6 feet and weighs around 200 pounds. That’s certainly a large bird, no matter how you look at it.

The colors are black and white, and their coat is luxurious. The neck, head, and legs of ostriches are bald, whether they’re female or male. So, while you won’t really be able to tell the difference between the male and female, know that they are there.

Where Do Ostriches Live?

Ostriches can be found in Africa in the deserts, Savannahs, and woodlands. They like to be where there’s a brush to hide in, which they find easily in the Savannah and woodlands. However, if an ostrich is caught by a predator where there’s very little brush to hide in, they use their great speed and intelligence to evade capture.

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Ostriches and Food


An ostrich survives on fruits, flowers, seeds, and grass. Ostriches are Omnivores, so at times they’ll eat insects, reptiles, and other types of meats left by carnivores in their area.

Does the Ostrich Have Predators?

To date, the biggest threat to the ostrich is humans. Hunting the ostrich for its feathers almost caused the large bird to become extinct. Now that ostrich farming has begun hunting them has become less common. Now they need to worry about losing their habitat and predators, as well as hunting.

What Do Ostrich Eat?

Despite the huge size of the ostrich, it still has its share of meat-eating enemies out there. Large animals such as leopards, lions, cheetahs, and even hyenas chase down and eat the ostrich.

They also have to watch for African hunting dogs, mongooses, vultures, and warthogs that will take the eggs out of their nests and devour them. The only predator that can keep up with the speed the ostrich has is the Cheetah, which will chase it down. The other predators hide and attack when the ostrich isn’t paying attention instead.

What Is an Ostriches Lifespan?

ostriches in a grassy field
Image Credit: Ernestovdp, Pixabay

Once born, baby ostriches reach adulthood and size in around six months. They reach sexual maturity within three to four years, which is longer than most birds wait. The lifespan of an ostrich is determined by whether it’s in captivity or in the wild. They tend to live around 50 years in captivity, according to how well they are cared for. In the wild, they live for 30 to 40 years on average.

Ostrich Population

According to the species of ostrich, most are of least concern when it comes to worrying about extinction. It’s estimated that there are less than 150,000 ostriches still living in the wild.

There are ostriches in the zoos, of course, and they are said to be one of the most popular birds there. Tourists love to watch the ostriches. They are certainly one of the most popular attractions at zoos in the United States, whether it’s the North Carolina Zoo or one of the other major zoos in America.

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Final Thoughts

So, in answer to the question of whether ostriches are birds or mammals, the answer is that ostriches are indeed flightless birds that can reach great speeds when running. Luckily, these majestic birds aren’t extinct any longer, but it’s still important to keep an eye out for them, both in the wild and in captivity, so they don’t become almost extinct again.

No one wants there to come a time when you can see these wonderful creatures in your local zoo or bounding across the Savannah when you’re on a safari in gorgeous Africa.

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Featured Image Credit: polyfish, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.