Why Do Ostriches Have 3 Stomachs? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Ostriches have 3 stomachs to make sure that they get the most out of the food that they take in and that it digests.

Being the world’s largest and fastest bird on land, Ostriches have quite the reputation.

These flightless birds can reach speeds as high as 70 Kilometers per hour when fleeing the reach of predators.

They also possess very powerful vision. But for the purpose of this article, we will focus on their digestive system and look closely at why ostriches have 3 Stomachs.

How Many Stomachs Does An Ostrich Have?

Why Do Ostriches Have 3 Stomachs

Ostriches have 3 stomachs.

The 3 stomachs of the ostrich perform different roles.

Each of these roles is fundamental in ensuring that digestion is achieved and that the necessary nutrients are absorbed into the ostrich’s stomach.

Why Do Ostriches Have 3 Stomachs?

As we mentioned before, Ostriches have 3 stomachs because it enables them to get the most out of the food that they consume.

Ostriches eat a variety of things. Studies show that they have an omnivorous eating habits. This means that they consume insects, animals, and some plants.

As a result, they have adapted 3 stomachs capable of digesting whatever they take in.

The structure of their stomachs is also necessary because they do not grind their food before swallowing.

The stomach is principally responsible for breaking down food.

The first stomach is called the glandular stomach and it is where the gall bladder is mixed with the bolus to kickstart the digestive process.

From the glandular stomach, the bolus mixed with gall will be passed on to the ventriculus which is also referred to as the muscular stomach.

From there, it is passed on to the small intestine.

Briefly Explain An Ostrich’s Digestive System

The Ostrich’s digestive starts from the beak where it takes in food.

Ostriches do not have teeth and so they usually just swallow their food whole.

The food goes down the esophagus in ball form called a bolus and into the first stomach, where the food is mixed with the gall bladder.

This first stomach is called the Proventricular. The food stays here for a while until there is enough mass of food to push it into the Ventriculus.

At this stage of digestion, the food meets pebbles and stones in the stomach of the ostrich.

The pebbles were already swallowed beforehand by the Ostrich to help grind or break down the food that they have consumed because they lack the teeth to do so at the initial stage of ingestion.

From the Ventriculus, the broken down food makes its way into the small intestine from where the stage of absorption begins.

The Ostrich’s unique 3 stomach digestive system also allows it to excrete faeces and urine separately.

This phenomenon is unlike what is obtainable with other bird species that excrete both faeces and urine at the same time.

All in all, the complex digestive system of an ostrich can be as long as 46 feet.

Do Ostriches Have Diamonds In Their Stomachs?

No, Ostriches do not have diamonds in their stomachs.

As with most tales, concerning them, this one is a myth.

Perhaps, this myth has its origin from early hunters of the ostrich who discovered that the ratite had pebbles and stones in its stomach.

Pebbles particularly given their smooth nature could have been viewed as “precious stone” and given that diamonds are also in some circles regarded as “precious stones”, it is no wonder that the myth has become an urban legend.

As we have mentioned, Ostriches do not have diamonds in their stomachs.

The only thing remotely close to a diamond in their stomachs are the pebbles and rock that they swallow to enable them properly grind the food that they consume.

And the reason they need to do this is not farfetched: they do not have the teeth to grind their meals.

The stones or pebbles in their Ventriculus does the grinding for them to enable their small intestines receive the broken down food.

Can An Ostrich Eat Metal?

Yes, Ostriches can eat metal.

You would be surprised that the answer to this question has led to many a death of ostriches.

Even though they live in areas where depending on the season, food can be hard to come by, Ostriches can eat metal not because it adds any nutritional value to them but perhaps because they view them as sometime else to help the grind their foods better.

But eating something or ingesting something is totally different from digesting it.

Ostriches are by their nature omnivores. This entails that their dietary composition is similar to ours.

As humans, we have no business eating metal as it is not even something that we can digest. Our stomach acid is not strong enough to do that.

It is also very possible that the myth of Ostriches eating metal emanated from people of early times who observed that ostriches swallowed stones and pebbles.

These ones may have concluded that if Ostriches could swallow stones and pebbles without observable adverse effect, then it is possible for them to eat metal.

Also adding to this myth according to another source is iconography.

In iconography, iron, mainly represented by a horseshoe, or more rarely by a nail, becomes the iconographic attribute of the ostrich, so that nobody could confuse it with any other long-legged and long-necked bird.

In summary, in modern times, studies and experimentation have shown that even if an ostrich eats metal, it cannot digest it.

In fact, several deaths have resulted from ostriches who have swallowed nails or metal and it has been rationally concluded that nails have been the cause of their deaths.

The nails that they ingest are usually found in their stomach at death or found to have stopped the passage of food from one stomach to the other.  


The Ostrich remains an enigma to the scientific world.

Its complex digestive system has led to more questions than answers and has birthed many myths and urban legends.

But as you have learned from this article, the stomach structure serves its purpose of making up for the ostrich’s lack of teeth to munch on food.

Also, you have seen that even though the Ostrich eats metal, it cannot digest it.

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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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