How Do Ostriches Adapt To The Desert? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

A desert is a hot, dry, and sandy stretch of land with little vegetation. It is a tough place to live in, especially because of its weather conditions.

Being flightless birds, ostriches cannot inhabit higher altitude regions and so, they reside on the land.

These flightless birds are well adapted to survive on land. Surprisingly, these birds are known to also live in the desert.

Knowing how uncomfortable deserts can be for living things, it’s understandable to wonder how these land birds cope in such an environment.

So let’s answer the question ‘ how do ostriches adapt to the desert?”

How Do Ostriches Adapt To The Desert?

Here are the adaptive features that enable ostriches to adapt in a desert.

1. Ostriches have long necks: Their long necks enable them to spot predators. Ostriches are always on the lookout for predators, in other to defend themselves or flee. 

It was easier for them to spot a predator before it attacks them rather than to be caught unawares.

2. Ostriches have eyes that see a great distance: These birds have incredible eyesight even at night. 

Ostriches are known to have very big eyes compared to other birds, well their eyes come in handy a lot. With their eyes, they can sight predators from a far distance and seek cover. 

3. They can go for days without water: Ostriches can naturally go for days without water. Their food is usually an alternative source of water for them, particularly plants. 

With ostriches being in deserts that have very little water, they do pretty fine because they rarely lack water. 

4. Ostriches have exposed pores: Since deserts are usually hot and dry, how do Ostriches survive this weather condition? 

Well, ostriches have several exposed pores found on their head and legs. These pores help them cool off when it gets very hot and dry. 

5. They have thick plumage: Ostriches are super unique, they can’t only stand hot weather, and they also have great survival mechanisms for cold. 

These birds have thick plumage which acts as an insulating coat that helps them to survive in extreme cold nights in the deserts.

The layer of their soft feathers provides warm insulation in chill weather conditions.

6. Ostriches have thick eyelashes and eyelids: Sand storms are quite regular in the desert. To this effect, ostriches have thick eyelashes and eyelids that guard their eyes against intense sandstorms.

7. They can reduce water loss: Ostriches need to conserve as much water as possible when they are in a desert. How do they achieve this? They simply reduce water loss. 

Ostriches do this by sending back the concentrated urine to the body from the bladder. Unlike other birds, Ostriches store the urine separately in the urinary bladder with no side effects whatsoever. 

8. Ostriches have large wings: The size of an Ostrich is large enough to scare most predators away. They further fluff their wings to make themselves appear larger. 

This adaptation helps ostriches to keep the predators away, thus, making them suitable for survival in deserts.

9. Ostriches have large and flat feet: Their feet help them walk on the sandy land of deserts easily. Their feet are also a defense mechanism. When they can’t run from predators, they use their legs to kick and severely injure their predators.

10. Ostriches aren’t picky eaters: Feeding is another important factor when it comes to adaptation. Can an Ostrich eat the food readily available in a desert? 

Well, Ostriches are omnivore birds which mean they eat both plants and animals. So, they can’t run out of options when it comes to food. 

These birds eat plant leaves, seeds, grasses, roots, rodents, snakes, insects, lizards, frogs, etc. There’s a high chance of finding one or more of these foods in a desert. 

Here is an article I wrote on how do ostriches run so fast

Can Ostriches Live In The Desert?

Yes, Ostriches can live in the desert. These birds are found in deserts, semi-arid plains, savannas, and open woodlands. 

However, it has been observed that ostriches prefer to live in the desert than the savanna and open woods.

This is because they have a lesser predatory attack in the desert compared to other habitats. 

How Did Ostriches Evolve To Adapt To Their Environment?

Evolution can simply be said to be the process by which the physical characteristics of creatures change over time and new physical features emerge.

According to research, ostriches have evolved new physical characteristics that are best suited to their environment. Let’s look at some of these evolutions; 

  • According to fossil records, there’s a significant difference in the size and length of their legs compared to how it was. 

The fossil records show that ostriches did not have the powerful legs they have today. It explains that these birds developed strong, powerful legs to aid their defense mechanism. 

  • Also, because ostriches couldn’t fly, they grew in size to protect themselves from predators. Their inability to fly may be due to their large size, which has grown over time. 
  • Furthermore, they developed an extremely fast speed, which ensures a high percentage of survival from predatory attacks.

What Do Ostriches Use to Survive?

1. They feed: Ostriches feed to survive. They usually move from place to place in search of food and water.

There is practically no living thing that can survive without proper feeding. 

These birds eat both plants and small animals to survive.

And in extreme situations where they’re uncle to have access to water or food, they extract water from the plants which they’ve eaten previously. 

2. They use their feathers: Ostriches need protection when it gets hot or cold.

And since they are usually found in the wild, they lack shelter to safeguard them from these weather conditions. 

However, they make use of their feathers in these cases. Their feather helps to keep them warm in hot and cold weather conditions.

3. They employ their sensitive features: Ostrich protects themselves from predators to survive.

They would use their eyes and long necks to observe their environment and check if they will spot a predator. 

Their big size is already a warning to any predator that wants to attack them. If they spot a predator they will either run, camouflage, or fight back.

They also have powerful legs that they use to fight predators when they are attacked. 

Also check out this article I wrote on why do ostriches lay in the rain

What Is An Ostrich’s Defense Mechanism?

Most animals living on earth are hunted by predators.

That’s why most species have developed one or more defense mechanisms, to enable them to fight against their predators.  

These defense mechanisms differ from one animal to the next. Ostriches aren’t left out, here are some of their defense mechanisms. 

  • Speed: One way ostriches avoid predators is running since they can’t fly. This is a very common defense mechanism employed by several animals. This may be because this mechanism does not require them to involve complicated things like venom or spines.
  • Camouflage: Ostriches have evolved color patterns that look almost exactly like their habitats. This makes it extremely difficult to identify them, which means that predators will have a hard time spotting them.
  • Strong legs: Ostriches have the fastest and one of the most powerful legs in the history of birds. They use their powerful talons to kick their predators and oftentimes, this may lead to the death of their predators. 

How Do Ostriches Survive In The Wild?

Survival for ostriches in the wild is largely dependent on their defense mechanisms which include, camouflage, their strong kicks, their incredible speed, and their ability to stay for long without water. 

Unlike captive ostriches that have the privileges of being fed by their owner, wild ostriches have to move from place to place in search of food.

In contrast to captive ostriches found in most zoos, wild ostriches must go the extra mile to survive.

Predator attacks, harsh weather conditions, and even food are not a problem for captive ostriches. 

They don’t have a shelter like most captive ostriches, so they are vulnerable to harsh weather conditions.

Their feathers are only sufficient to keep them safe in extremely hot and cot conditions.


Ostriches are indeed tough birds, being able to adapt to the desert is no joke.

Considering the weather and scarcity of food and water in a desert, it is easy to assume that no living thing can survive in such an environment. 

However, ostriches are fully equipped to survive in a desert, as a matter of fact, they prefer deserts to other habitats.  

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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