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Alternative name: Common Ostrich
Includes Somali Ostrich
World's largest bird with males weighing up to 156 kg.
molybdophanes has a bare neck and the thighs are blue-grey, the male is a deeper black and female a lighter grey.
Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa from Mauritania to Sudan and north-east Ethiopia, south to Tanzania and in southern Africa in southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. Somali Ostrich in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya south to Tsavo East National Park.
Formerly widespread in northern Africa but now rare or an occasional visitor to southern Morocco and northern parts of Mali, Niger and Chad. Recently recorded in southern Egypt and may breed in small numbers.
Reintroduction attempts are underway in the Negev Desert of southern Israel.
A small population of race australis may persist in south-central Australia, descendants of birds imported for the plume trade.
Resident and often nomadic, particularly in arid areas.
Subspecies: Nominate race is found in north of range from Mauritania to Sudan and northern Uganda, replaced in East Africa by massaicus in southern Kenya and eastern Tanzania (pinkish-grey neck, flushing bright red during the breeding season and narrower white neck ring) and molybdophanes from southern Ethiopia to Somalia and adjacent northeast Kenya (blue-gray neck and legs, blacker body plumage). Southern African range is occupied by australis but pure wild birds are perhaps confined to Namibia and Botswana (neck is greyish, flushing red in breeding male and lacks white collar, tail brown). North-west African birds are sometimes separated as spatzi and Middle Eastern birds belonged to syriacus (extinct).
Subspecies molybdophanes treated by some authors as a separate species, Somali Ostrich (S. molybdophanes), and recent results indicate that australis plus massaicus would constitute another full species.
Semi-desert, arid short-grass plains and open wooded savanna. molybdophanes more often in bush and scrub than nominate.
Feeds on grasses, seeds and leaves. In dry areas succulent plants are also taken. Takes sometimes insects and small vertebrates.
The nest is a shallow scrape in the ground. Usually the major hen lays 5 to 11 eggs and 2 to 5 minor hens lay 2 to 6 eggs each in the common nest. The young form large groups which are accompanied by one or more adults for the first 9 months.
Mainly silent but makes occasional hissing sounds.
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