Ostrich Facts

Oudtshoorn district

Oudtshoorn district produces some 30,000kg of feathers per year

Gizzard stones

Gizzard stones: are the stones and pebbles found in an ostrich’s stomach (gizzard). Because the ostrich has no teeth, they will pick up about 1.5kg of stones and pebbles to help with their digestion.
They grind the ostrich’s food to a fine consistency. They are never excreted, but gradually wear away and have to be replaced. Ostriches are always looking for hard objects to swallow (e.g. bones, wires, tins, glass). Without these gizzard stones, the ostrich would die.

Ostrich’s life span

Normally, an ostrich’s life span averages between 35 and 45 years, but Oudtshoorn was home to the oldest ostrich which was 81 years old.


The ostrich stands about 2.2m tall, of which the neck at about 1m in length, and weighs about 100-130 kg.


The ostrich is the only bird in the world with 2 toes. There is a dangerous toenail, about 7cm long, on the big toe of each foot which can have fatal causes if one is kicked. They can only kick forward, so if you’re ever in front of an angry ostrich, fall on your belly and cover your head. They will eventually get bored and move on.


An ostrich normally runs up to 70km/h. The maximum recorded speed of an ostrich running is 97km/h whereas one of Africa’s much loved animal, the Cheetah, can run up to 112-120 km/h.

Mating ritual

The male ostrich performs a mating ritual for the female. The male goes into a crouched position, with undulating wings, he taps his head on the arch of his back, first from one side, then to the other keeping his body motionless.


Its true knees are high up against the body, covered by the wings. What is generally thought of as its back-to-front “knee” is actually its heel: in fact the ostrich walks on its toes.


Ostriches have exceptionally good sight. The eyes take up approximately two-thirds of the volume of its head (60g/eye). They can focus on an object right under their beaks or discern a moving object in the distance.


The brain of an ostrich is exceptionally small. An adult ostrich’s brain is about the size of a hen’s egg, which weighs about 40g.

Vocal chords

The ostrich has no vocal chords to enable it to produce sounds like other birds. Initially ostrich chicks make a weak chirping sound but after about 2 months become voiceless.
The adult female produces a hissing sound when excited. With his whole neck puffed-up, the male booms and grunts during the mating season, sounding just like a far-off grunt of a lion. In the still of the night this peculiar sound will carry for up to two kilometres.