Somali Ostrich Struthio molybdophanes


Justification of Red List category
This species is inferred to be undergoing rapid declines over three generations due to ongoing threats including hunting pressure, egg collection, and habitat loss and degradation. It has therefore been listed as Vulnerable, but data is limited owing to recent taxonomic splits and surveys are needed to quantify the species's current population status and trends.

Population justification
The population size has not been quantified owing to recent taxonomic splits.

Trend justification
No trend data are available, but numbers have noticeably decreased since the late 1980s, with a total disappearance from some areas (Ash and Atkins 2009). Given the severity of threats including being hunted for meat, feathers, and leather, egg collection, as well as habitat loss and degradation, the species is inferred to be undergoing a rapid decline over three generations (Mutiga et al. 2016, Ripple et al. 2019).

Distribution and population

This species is found in north-east Africa, with its range incorporating Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Numbers have noticeably decreased since the late 1980s, with total disappearance from some areas, although flocks of 40 are still seen in the southern Danakil (Ash and Atkins 2009). The current population stronghold is thought to be Samburu, Kenya (Mutiga et al. 2016).


The species is often encountered alone or in pairs in a variety of habitats including semi-arid and arid grassland, dense thornbush and woodland (Davies 2002, Ash and Atkins 2009).


The species is hunted across its range for meat, eggs, skins, and feathers (Mutiga et al. 2016, Ripple et al. 2019). Furthermore, eggs are used as ornaments, water containers, and symbols or protective devices, while birds can further be shot for target practice (Ash and Atkins 2009). Habitat loss and degradation undoubtedly represents a further threat and the area and quality of suitable habitat for this species is thought to be declining due to agricultural encroachment (Ripple et al. 2019).

Conservation actions

Conservation and research actions in place
The species occurs in Samburu National Reserve, which is thought to represent the population stronghold (Mutiga et al. 2016).

Conservation and research actions proposed
Obtain population and trend estimates, and ascertain severity of threats. Combat hunting and egg collecting via awareness-raising campaigns.


Male 210-275 cm, 100-156 kg, female 175-190 cm, 90-110 kg. Huge flightless bird with massive bare legs and long bare neck and head. Loose plumage is solidly black in the male apart from the bright white tail and small wings. Females are dark brown. Similar spp. to S. camelus but bare areas are blue-grey, eyes are pale grey-brown and the plumage is blacker in the male. The female is more similar to S. camelus, but always has blue-grey eyes.


Text account compilers
Rotton, H.

Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Martin, R., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Struthio molybdophanes. Downloaded from on 28/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/11/2023.