What Do Ostriches Eat? A Comprehensive Guide

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Being the biggest and heaviest land bird as well as the fastest two-legged animal, ostriches are well-known for their size and speed. But what precisely do ostriches consume to maintain their enormous bodies and blazing-fast sprinting speeds? And given the dry desert environments they live in, do they routinely need to drink to stay hydrated?

Being omnivores, ostriches consume a wide variety of foods, including as insects, lizards, and small rodents, in addition to roots, flowers, bulbs, grasses, grains, and fruits. Although an adult ostrich may eat up to 1.8 kg of food per day, the majority of the moisture it requires comes from that food.

Water is not always easily accessible in ostriches’ native environments, and they have been known to go up to two weeks without drinking. Ostriches can survive for two or three days without food if there are no foraging possibilities, although the demand for food is more pressing.

Despite being omnivores, ostriches mostly eat plants; in the wild, they graze on grass, seeds, roots, and bushes in semi-desert and dry environments. Continue reading to find out more about their food sources and dietary habits.

A Synopsis of the Ostrich Diet

Plant and animal materials are both included in ostrich diets. The majority is made up of plants, with leafy greens, grasses, and other foliage making up around 60% of the total.

An additional five percent is derived from animals and includes certain animal remnants, lizards, snakes, and amphibians, as well as insects like worms, caterpillars, and beetles and their larvae.

Flesh and legumes make up the remaining fifteen percent of an ostrich’s diet, with grit and stones accounting for another twenty percent.\

Ostriches in the Wild: Grass and Plants Are Their Natural Diet

Ostriches consume a broad variety of leaves, grasses, shrubs, flowers, roots, berries, seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes, among other plants found in their native environments. With the help of the grit and pebbles they eat, their digestive processes are fully capable of breaking down both soft and hard vegetation.

Small animals and insects

An ostrich’s typical diet consists of around one-fifth of bugs, such as worms, cockroaches, beetles, and larvae. They provide significant protein sources, which are especially beneficial during the early phases of growth and development.

Fruits & Seeds

Ostriches mostly get their moisture from fruits; their preferred fruits include guarri, abal, acacia, baobab, beech, wild melon, and monkey orange. Since they are more readily accessible during rainy seasons as opposed to protracted droughts or periods of low rainfall, fruits and berries are mostly consumed during these seasons. We often consume seeds, especially grass seeds.

Sand and Pebbles

To help in the breakdown of the other components of their diet, ostriches actively search for and consume pebbles and sand.

After being ingested, stones stay in the gizzard where they crush against other food items and tumble with the digestive liquids, eventually breaking them up so they may travel down the digestive system.

Because these stones smooth out and lose their ability to grind food, grit must be periodically ingested to keep the process efficient.

Urban Ostriches: Observations on Human Environments

Urban ostriches may come into touch with food sources—such as plants that may have had pesticide treatment—that they would not ordinarily come across in an area that is sparsely inhabited. If their favorite meals are scarce, urban ostriches may also be at danger of ingesting inappropriate and inedible materials such as plastics and rubbish.

Ostriches may have to travel further in search of appropriate grazing areas when highways and towns supplant their native habitats. This may be dangerous if they wind up discovering landfills or waste left by people. Ostriches have a reputation for being indiscriminate eaters, so there’s a chance that when they’re starving, they’ll eat everything and everything.

If cultivated fields with leafy greens or root crops are accessible to ostriches, agricultural landscapes might provide an ample food supply. However, ostriches may be at risk from the use of pesticides and chemicals in agricultural methods, since this may decrease the natural number of insects in their diets and contaminate local water supplies and the plants they consume.

Ostriches Grown on Farms: Their Diet in Captivity

Fresh fruit and vegetables are added to a particular pellet diet that farm-raised ostriches are often offered. Iron oxide, vitamins, calcium, and alfalfa—a plant abundant in moisture, fiber, and protein—are all in balance in rite pellets.

Common ingredients include maize, which provides concentrated carbs and a significant source of energy. Protein and fat may be increased by adding peanuts.

Farm-raised ostriches are fed supplemental feed that consists mostly of green fodder crops like cabbages and kale, along with key sources of protein, calcium, and hydration like oranges, watermelons, and carrots.

In the wild as well as in captivity, grit, pebbles, stones, and sand are essential to an ostrich’s digestive processes. In order to aid in the digestion of food, the ostrich’s gizzard holds stones with rough edges that it swallows and grinds into tiny bits. Replacement gizzard stones will be ingested as the original ones start to lose their potency.

Ostrich Eggs: Nutrition from Incubation to Young Adulthood

In the first few weeks and months of life, younger ostriches need a diet high in protein. They are growing quickly at this crucial stage of development, reaching their maximum adult height by the time they are 18 months old.

To sustain this rapid and unceasing development, extremely nourishing food is required: ostrich chicks weigh around 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) at hatching and approximately 140 kg (more than 300 lb) at 18 months.

Foods high in fiber are necessary for adult ostriches to maintain bodily functioning and avoid obesity. Older ostriches usually have 18% or more fiber in their diet; for younger birds, this is less significant and the amount of fiber may be as low as 5 or 6 percent.

An ostrich may live a longer, healthier life if its food is appropriately adjusted to meet its various nutritional needs.

Seasonal Differences in Nutrition

Summer and spring

The most varied and varied meals are enjoyed by wild ostriches throughout the spring and summer. This is because these seasons include frequent rainfall, which results in a plentiful supply of fruits, seeds, and insects, as well as lush green grasses and foliage. Early spring is a great time to enjoy newly emerging plants, and as summer progresses, berries and melons develop and become abundant.

When October brings lower temperatures, vegetation starts to die back, which affects how an ostrich’s natural diet balances out after summer.

As seeds and roots take over as the main food sources in their environments, they have been shown to increase their grit consumption as a coping mechanism for the rise in difficult items in their diet.

Winter

Since there is less fresh plant food accessible in the winter, insects play a larger role in an ostrich’s diet. If they can’t find more nourishing options, they will hunt for anything edible, including twigs and bark.

Any greenery they come upon will contribute to their continued wellness. Lack of natural food sources during severe colds may make life very difficult. During the winter, one of the most popular prey species is small reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, and even tortoises.

Feeding Behaviors of Ostriches

Friendly birds and ostriches roam in herds, or big groups, in quest of food. Over vast stretches of grassy plains, up to 50 individuals graze in unison while searching the ground for seeds, grasses, and insects.

Ostriches must consume 1 to 1.8 kg of food each day, spending up to 8 hours each day foraging. They modify their foraging to include whatever is in season and will

Ostriches, in contrast to mammals, will consume whole plants—including roots and bulbs—instead of only leaves or stems. Their gizzard’s grit and stones act as a grinding mechanism to break down big, indigestible materials into tiny pieces throughout the approximately 36-hour digestion process.

The Function of Ostriches in Ecosystems: Unintentionally but crucially, free-roaming ostriches aid in the dissemination of seeds across their habitats. They feed on wild grasses and other plants, and they will naturally defecate while they are out and about. There are a lot of undigested seeds in this excrement, which may germinate and develop into plants once they find a new home.

Ostrich-Human Interactions

Ostriches and people may sometimes meet paths in tourist destinations. In these circumstances, the enormous birds may show a special interest in their human neighbors and be comparatively fearless of approaching them.

There are sporadic reports of ostriches stealing picnics from guests or becoming too curious about food being consumed by occupants of cars with open windows.

Ostriches are wild creatures, thus it is important to constantly preserve their environment and take care not to upset them. It’s advisable to maintain your distance to prevent being kicked or bitten.

Visitors may safely feed ostriches during guided feeding excursions offered by several farms and safari hubs. Ostriches may be fed on fruits and vegetables such as diced apples, pears, grapes, squash, carrots, and bok choy.

Ostriches are poisonous, so never serve them avocados or onions. Avoiding acorns is also advised since they have significant tannic acid content, which may seriously sicken ostriches.

Ostriches are omnivores, however the majority of their food consists of plants. Their favorite diets in their native environments are a variety of wild grasses and leafy greens.

A pellet-based diet is often fed to animals in captivity in order to provide a mix of proteins, lipids, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.

An ostrich gets all the water it needs from foods like fruits and berries, however they also periodically visit ponds and water holes to drink (and bathe!).

Ostriches depend on ingesting grit and stones to aid in their digestion as they are unable to chew without teeth. These are gathered in the gizzard and rolled about in order to break up any hard meal particles.

FAQs

What role do pebbles and sand have in an ostrich’s diet?

Ostriches consume “grit,” such as pebbles and sand, and store it in their gizzard to help in digestion. They ground their meal into more palatable bits by rubbing it against the pebbles’ rough edges.

Do ostriches have a large water intake?

Ostriches have enough moisture from their natural diet rich in plants, thus they don’t need to drink extra water to be hydrated. If they do find a water source, however, they very well could take a sip when the chance presents itself.

Are there any foods that ostriches would find toxic?

Avocados and onions are poisonous to ostriches and should never be given to them. Tannic acid, which may cause disease and even death in ostriches, is abundant in acorns. It goes without saying that no bird, including ostriches, should ever be fed chocolate, coffee, or alcohol.

In general, how frequently do ostriches eat?

Ostriches in the wild will search for food daily, however, they may go up to three days without eating if required. They will consume whatever is offered, and on average, they may consume up to 1.8 kg of food per day—more if they are really active.

The ostrich is an expert survivor in scorching desert conditions, and although they typically eat every day, skipping a few days without a good meal won’t harm them. Instead, they are used to moving great distances between productive feeding places.

How much time do ostriches spend fasting?

Ostriches have incredible endurance; they may go more than two weeks without drinking water and up to two or three days without eating. Since they are desert animals and have evolved to get moisture from their food rather than having to drink to keep hydrated, water plays a less significant role in their diet than it does for many other bird species.

Why are stones eaten by ostriches?

To help with digestion, ostriches ingest pebbles, rocks, and stones. They store them in their gizzard rather than digesting them. During the digestive process, the rough edges of the stones aid in grinding food particles into smaller, easier-to-digest bits.

Are ostriches carnivorous?

Due to their rigorous omnivorous nature, ostriches consume both vegetation and meat in their diet. But the majority of their diet consists of plants; less than 5% comes from meat, mostly from lizards, amphibians, and mammals. Insects and other tiny invertebrates, such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, crickets, spiders, and cockroaches, make up around 20% of an ostrich’s diet.

How would an ostrich eat?

Like other birds, ostriches feed by swallowing their meal whole. Ostriches can force food into their stomachs using their very long, powerful, and flexible necks.

They have two stomachs as part of their digestive system; our proventriculus, also known as the glandular stomach, is the first stomach. For easier digestion, birds may grind food into a thin paste in their gizzard, which is their second stomach.

Because of their big gizzards and habit of swallowing huge stones to aid in meal grinding, ostriches are able to eat a variety of tough and difficult-to-digest plant materials.

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind Birdsology.com. My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, Birdsology.com is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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