What Do Ostriches Eat?

What Do Ostriches Eat?

Ostriches, the world’s largest birds, have a fascinating and diverse diet that reflects their adaptability and the variety of habitats they occupy. Known for their impressive size and speed, these flightless birds are found in the wild across Africa’s savannas and semi-arid regions. Understanding their diet is crucial not only for appreciating their role in the ecosystem but also for effective management in captivity. So, what do ostriches eat? Let’s Doshared delve into the details.

What Do Ostriches Eat? Plant-Based Diet

Ostriches primarily consume a variety of plant materials, which form the bulk of their diet. What do ostriches eat when it comes to vegetation? They have a preference for certain types of plants that provide essential nutrients for their survival.

  1. Grass: Ostriches often graze on grasses. These grasses are abundant in their natural habitat and provide a significant source of fiber, which is essential for their digestive health. The tough, fibrous nature of grasses helps in grinding other food materials in their stomach.
    What Do Ostriches Eat?
  2. Leaves: The consumption of leaves is another significant component of an ostrich’s diet. They feed on leaves from various shrubs and trees. These leaves not only provide necessary nutrients but also help maintain hydration, especially in arid environments.
  3. Shrubs and Bushes: Ostriches are known to browse on shrubs and bushes, picking off tender shoots and young branches. These parts of the plant are often rich in essential minerals and vitamins.
  4. Fruits: In addition to grasses and leaves, ostriches enjoy a variety of fruits. Fruits provide natural sugars, vitamins, and hydration. Berries, in particular, are a favorite due to their high energy content.
  5. Seeds: Seeds are another important food source for ostriches. They contain concentrated nutrients that support the birds’ high energy needs, especially during breeding seasons or when they are rearing chicks.
  6. Flowers: Occasionally, ostriches consume flowers. Flowers can be a source of nectar and other nutrients. Although not a primary food source, flowers add diversity to their diet.

Animal Matter

While primarily herbivorous, ostriches are opportunistic feeders and incorporate animal matter into their diet when available. What do ostriches eat besides plants? Their diet includes various small creatures that provide additional protein and other nutrients.

Ostriches Eat Insects

  1. Insects: Insects like locusts and grasshoppers are a common part of the ostrich diet. These insects are plentiful in their natural habitats and are an excellent source of protein.
  2. Small Reptiles: Ostriches occasionally consume small reptiles, such as lizards. These animals are rich in protein and essential fats, which are crucial for their growth and reproductive health.
  3. Rodents: Small mammals like rodents are also part of the ostrich’s diet. These provide a high-energy food source, particularly important in harsh conditions where plant matter might be scarce.
  4. Other Small Animals: Ostriches are not picky eaters and will consume other small animals they can catch. This includes anything from amphibians to the occasional small bird.

Stones and Pebbles

Ostriches Eat Stones and Pebbles

An interesting aspect of the ostrich diet is their consumption of small stones and pebbles. What do ostriches eat that aids in digestion? These stones play a crucial role.

Ostriches lack teeth, so they rely on ingesting grit to help grind down food in their gizzard, a specialized stomach chamber. The stones and pebbles act as grinding agents, breaking down tough plant fibers and aiding in the overall digestive process. This behavior is common among many bird species and is essential for their ability to process a varied diet.

Seasonal and Environmental Influences

The diet of ostriches can vary significantly depending on the season and the environment. What do ostriches eat in different conditions?

  1. Dry Seasons: During dry periods, when plant matter is less available, ostriches may rely more heavily on animal matter, insects, and seeds. The consumption of stones becomes even more critical to aid in the digestion of tougher, dried plant materials.
  2. Wet Seasons: In wetter conditions, when plants are lush and abundant, ostriches will predominantly feed on grasses, leaves, and fruits. The availability of fresh vegetation provides a more balanced diet rich in necessary nutrients.
  3. Captivity: In zoos and farms, the diet of ostriches is carefully managed to ensure they receive a balanced intake of nutrients. What do ostriches eat in captivity? Their diet typically includes a mix of grains, specially formulated feeds, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Supplements may also be provided to ensure they receive adequate vitamins and minerals.

Nutritional Needs and Feeding Behavior

Ostriches have specific nutritional needs that must be met for their health and well-being. What do ostriches eat to fulfill these requirements?

  1. Protein: Essential for growth and reproduction, protein is obtained from animal matter and certain seeds and grains. The inclusion of insects and small animals helps meet their protein needs.
  2. Fiber: High-fiber foods like grasses and leaves are crucial for proper digestion. Fiber helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and prevents impaction, a common issue in captive birds.
  3. Vitamins and Minerals: A varied diet including fruits, seeds, and certain leaves provides necessary vitamins and minerals. In captivity, these are often supplemented to ensure the ostriches remain healthy.
  4. Water: Hydration is vital, and ostriches get water from their food as well as from drinking. Fruits and fresh vegetation are significant sources of water, especially important in arid environments.


So, what do ostriches eat? Their diet is diverse and adaptable, reflecting their ability to thrive in various environments. From grasses and leaves to insects and small animals, ostriches have a versatile diet that supports their nutritional needs and lifestyle. Whether in the wild or captivity, understanding and meeting their dietary requirements is essential for their health and well-being. By providing a balanced diet, we can ensure that these magnificent birds continue to thrive and play their important role in the ecosystem.

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