How Do Ostriches Survive? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

To survive and protect themselves, all living organisms have unique bodies, systems, and organs, as well as defense and protection mechanisms. 

Have you ever imagined how animals would recover from illness, withstand harsh weather conditions, and survive predator attacks?

That is where survival mechanisms come into play. 

A survival mechanism is simply something that the body does automatically to survive in a dangerous or unpleasant situation.

Every living thing including plants and animals has survival mechanisms. 

However, how do ostriches survive? Let’s find out. 

How Do Ostriches Survive?

How Do Ostriches Survive

Many animals’ survival is aided by their adaptive characteristics, particularly those found in the wild.

Ostriches have incredible adaptabilities which sure their survival and also makes them extremely unique.

Here are some of their unique features which also help them survive; 

1. Their legs

Ostriches have very long legs and, despite weighing about 145 kg, they can’t fly like some other birds.

These birds are the heaviest but fastest birds in the universe. An ostrich’s legs allow it to flee from its predators quickly.

However, when fleeing is not an option, their legs are a powerful defense mechanism. Ostriches are well-known for their powerful leg kicks.

The talons of an ostrich foot can injure its victim or potential predators severely. 

2. Their eyes and neck

According to research, ostriches have one of the largest eyes in bird history. Their eyes are very useful tools for their survival. 

They use their eyes to scan their surroundings for potential predators.

Research shows that these birds can see about 3 kilometers away during the day and 50 meters at night. 

They can only see from a long distance because, in addition to having good eyesight, they have a long neck.

3. Their feathers

The feather of an ostrich is also a strong defense mechanism for very hot and cold weather conditions.

Generally, the feathers of a bird have gaps in them and these gaps are filled with air.

This feature functions as a heat insulator that helps to protect the birds in cold weather.  

4. Their camouflaging abilities 

Another key survival initiative ostriches take is blending with their environment.

When they sense danger they tend to blend with their environment, making them almost invisible. This makes them less vulnerable to predators. 

5. Food and water

Every living organism needs food and water for survival. Animals need food and water to live and also to grow healthy and strong.

Plants also need food, they survive on water and light. 

While some animals get their food from plants, others get theirs from other animals.

Ostriches are omnivores though, they consume plants and animals.

Their diet consists mainly of roots, leaves, and seeds, however, ostriches are not picky eaters, they’d eat whatever is available. Sometimes they consume insects, snakes, lizards, and rodents.

Here is an article I wrote on how do ostriches adapt to the desert

How Do Ostriches Survive Predators?

As earlier discussed, ostriches possess natural adaptive features, which help them withstand whatever their environment throws at them. 

Here are some ways ostriches survive predators; 

1. Camouflage: When ostriches sense danger or an attack they will attempt to look like a rock or something in their environment by flattening their head and neck onto the ground.

2. Run: Unlike others birds that would easily flyway when confronted by predators, ostriches run.

Since they can’t fly, their legs replace their inability to fly. 

The speed of an ostrich is like no other bird. They can outrun most humans and other predators like a lion.

The first survival instinct an ostrich will likely get is to run away from its predator. 

3. Fighting back: When ostriches have used up their options they are left with no other option than self-defense.

These birds are known to fight with their really strong legs. Their kicks are so powerful, they can kill a lion.

How Do Ostriches Survive In The Desert?

Ostriches are predominately found in the savanna and desert vegetations. However, most ostriches prefer the desert because the chances of predator attack are very slim. 

The interesting thing is that these birds have adaptations that ensure they survive in deserts. Wondering what these features are?

Well, here they are;

  • Ostriches can go without water for long periods. These birds extract a high amount of their water intake from the food they eat. For ostriches, this adaptation solves the problem of water scarcity in deserts.
  • An ostrich’s body has numerous exposed pores found on its head and legs. This helps them to survive in the hot climate and dry conditions of deserts.
  • Ostriches have thick plumage that acts as an insulating coat, allowing them to survive in the desert’s extreme cold nights. In cold weather, the layer of soft feathers provides warm insulation.
  • Ostriches have thick eyelashes and eyelids that guard their eyes against intense sandstorms which are extremely common in deserts. 
  • To reduce water loss, ostriches can send back the concentrated urine to the body from the bladder. Unlike other birds, ostriches store the urine separately in the urinary bladder.
  • Ostriches usually fluff their wings to make themselves appear more daunting and dominating. This adaptation helps ostriches to keep the predators away, thus, making them suitable for survival in deserts.
  • Ostriches have large and flat feet that help them walk on the sandy land of deserts easily. 
  • Ostriches are omnivore birds that generally eat plant leaves, seeds, grasses, roots, rodents, snakes, insects, lizards, frogs, and anything available to them in the desert.

How Did Ostriches Evolve To Survive In Their Environment?

To go further we must first understand what evolution means.

Evolution is the process by which the physical characteristics of creatures change over time, new physical features develop. 

As regards ostriches, fossil shows that they have existed for millions of years. And this fossil record has shown a great change in how their legs and size were, compared to how it is now.

The easiest way to explain how ostriches have been able to survive all these years is evolution.

Over the years, these birds have developed new physical features that best suit their environment.

For example their very long and powerful legs, with fossil records, it can be said that ostriches didn’t have the power legs they have now.

They developed strong powerful legs to aid their defense mechanism.

Since ostriches couldn’t fly, they developed a larger size so that they could fight off predators.

They aren’t able to fly and that could be due to their heavy size that developed over time.

To make up for that though they developed their very fast speed, thereby ensuring they survive the predatory attack to a high percentage.

Also check out this article I wrote on how do ostriches run so fast

How Do Ostriches Survive In The Wild?

Unlike captive ostriches found in most zoos, ostriches found in the wild have to do extra to ensure they survive. 

Captive ostriches have no issue with predatory attack, harsh weather conditions, and even food. Wild ostriches on the other hand need to search for food themselves to survive. 

Wild ostrich does not have a shelter like most captive ostriches, however, their feathers are just enough to keep them safe in extremely hot and cold weather.

When it comes to predators, they have to run, fight or camouflage to get away from predator attacks. 

How Do Baby Ostriches Survive?

The amazing thing about baby ostriches is that as soon as they are born they are ready to move, fight and run

In addition to being quite independent from birth, they rely on the adults from their group to defend them against anything with their big sharp claws.

Their claws can kill an animal if needed with little effort.

When it comes to feeding Ostriches have no parental feeding. This simply means that baby ostriches feed themselves instinctively. 

They possess and implement most of the survival mechanisms that adult ostriches implement.

However, they are not as effective as the adult ostriches because they are still tender regardless. 


How ostriches survive is quite an interesting one.

The various areas in which an ostrich might experience difficulty include harsh weather conditions, attacks from predators, and food sources.

The good news, however, is they have great survival mechanisms. 

With their big long legs that can give kicks, ostriches can defeat some of their predators. They also possess amazing abilities to go days without drinking water.

This is possible as they get water from the food they eat. 

When it comes to harsh weather conditions, their flightless feathers come to play.

Their feathers help to keep them warm when it’s cold and it also helps to keep them cool when it’s hot. 

Photo of author

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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