How Do Ostriches Communicate? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Communication is quite important in any species.

Although humans do not understand the language of animals, you can be rest assured they communicate and ostriches are not left out.

Living in the wilds of Africa, it is important that these birds are able to pass messages from one another. 

There are several reasons ostriches need to communicate with each other including calling their chicks, signifying heat period, warning of danger, declaring territories etc.

They communicate with each other in different ways.

In this article, we will explore the different ways ostriches communicate, whether they flirt, if they can hear, why they wave their wings amongst other questions. 

How Do Ostriches Communicate?

How Do Ostriches Communicate

Ostriches communicate amongst themselves in different ways especially through vocal sounds and body language. Some of those sounds include:

  • Hissing

Hissing is one of the ways ostriches communicate. When an ostrich hisses audibly, it is a sign of disapproval. This often shows the ostrich is not comfortable with someone or something around it.

When you are close to a hissing ostrich, it is a sign that you should move back.

If the ostrich feels further threatened it might attack.

  • Chirping

This sound is often made by chicks to get their parents attention. Each chick has its own unique identifiable voice.

When the chick makes a loud chirping noise, either parent’s attention will be drawn towards it. This can be used to save the chick from danger.

  • Booming

Booming sounds are usually made byale ostriches. It is made as part of the courtship ritual to attract the female ostrich. 

The male ostrich makes the booming sounds alongside other behaviors such as waving their tails back and forth. 

It is also used to establish territories during the breeding season.

  • Threat Display

Threat display is a behavior ostriches do to communicate dominance. They hold their heads high and puff out their wings and tail feathers.

This often helps to male them look bigger than they are. They do this when they feel threatened.

  • Courtship Display

The courtship behavior is a series of displays made by both male and female ostriches at the start of the breeding season. 

The male makes booming sounds and waves his tails to attract the female. To indicate acceptance and submission, the female droops her wings towards the ground. 

Here is an article I wrote on how dangerous is an ostrich

Do Ostriches Flirt?

Flirting is an activity which birds engage in during courtship.

Birds flirt when they wave or open and shut their wings or tails with a quick flicking motion and this is usually done by the males.

Ostriches also flirt and this happens during the breeding season when they are ready to mate. 

When flirting, the male ostrich kneels in front of the female, expands out his wings, extends his neck, and produces a booming, groaning noise.

This is referred to as kantling behavior.

Kantling is a characteristic male territorial activity in which the bird lowers to his hocks and fans both wings forward and backward while striking either side of his spine with his head.

Male kantlings typically last about five minutes or longer.

If the hen is watching the male perform, she will stretch her drooping wings forward, forming a vertical shield with the frontal edges pointing downward.

Pecking and snapping would resume, this time directed at the ground. The degree to which the wings are brought forward indicates the hens’ readiness to welcome the cock.

Can Ostriches Hear?

Ostriches can hear and are known to have acute hearing.

Ostriches can hear or sense their predators from miles away. This enables them to survive in the wild.

They are able to escape and run away from such predators. 

Although ostriches do not have the ability to fly, the structure of their ear is similar to that of birds with flying ability.

The ear capsule surrounds the membranous labyrinth, which contains the receptors important for balance and hearing regulation.

The ear is divided into three sections: the external ear, the middle ear, and the internal ear. 

The external ear is surrounded by a colorless white or acoustic disc and is composed of a short external auditory meatus that originates at the external auditory canal and terminates at the tympanic membrane.

The middle ear is made up of the tympanic cavity, which is funnel-shaped and stretches between the tympanic membrane and the internal ear.

The internal ear receives the message and sends it to the brain.

All this of course happens within seconds and messages are received and translated.

Also check out this article I wrote on how do ostriches adapt

What Does It Mean When An Ostrich Waves Its Wings?

An ostrich waving its wings is a courtship behavior referred to as kantling. This is more often seen during the breeding season.

When a male ostrich shows off this kind of behavior, it means he is ready to mate and as such finds a hen to solicit. 

The male ostrich drops in front of the female and waves its wings back and forth while making a booming, groaning sound.

The male ostrich continues this behavior for about 5 minutes. The female ostrich can decide to accept his solicitations or walk away.

If she is interested, she shows her interest by dropping her wings forward and forming a shield. The degree to which the wings are dropped shows her indication.

At this point, the male ostrich is expected to run towards so the mating ritual can begin.

Understanding ostrich body behavior is key especially if you plan to keep them as pets. 

What Is The Sound An Ostrich Makes Called?

During courtship, ostriches emit two distinct sounds. Males produce a low, deep noise known as a boom.

They accomplish this by expanding their necks to three times its size while maintaining a closed beak.

Males boom to mark their territory during mating. On the other hand, female ostriches hiss when their beaks are open.

Honking and chirping are loud sounds used to get attention . For example, baby ostriches can communicate with the rest of the flock by emitting a high-pitched chirp.

It’s a non-threatening sound that makes adult ostriches easily identify their chick within the flock..

Additionally, ostriches can screech in an attempt to scare or intimidate other animals.

They frequently augment their shrieking by lifting their feathers, making themselves appear larger and more threatening.

Ostriches also hiss and this generally means they do not like or want something. 

Why Do Ostriches Hiss?

Ostriches hiss when they do not like a certain behavior. It is frequently a warning to begin retreating and leaving the ostrich alone.

However, people and other animals should never approach an ostrich near enough to hear it hiss.

Hissing usually means ‘stay away.’ If you are close to an ostrich and can hear it hiss, it is best to retreat immediately.

The ostrich could attack you at any moment. Ostriches are heavy birds with strong leg muscles and talons.

Some people do not survive ostrich attacks. Their strong claws are enough to disembowel a lion not to talk of a human who is not as big.

You should always be careful around ostriches and ensure they are comfortable with your presence. 


Ostriches communicate with each other in different ways.

They have an extensive vocal repertoire which includes hissing, booming, whistling, grunting and chirping.

They also use body language to communicate and this is often exhibited during courtship. 

Ostriches are more often than not silent birds but they do communicate with each other when it is important.

The male ostriches are usually more vocal as they have to solicit for females during the breeding season and this involves loud booming and grunting.

Ostriches also have acute hearing and this helps to alert them to the presence of predators such as lions and cheetahs even when they are miles away. 

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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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