Ostrich Teeth: Do Ostriches Have Teeth?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: November 13, 2022
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Anyone who sees or learns about the ostrich feels immediate awe and interest as it is an undeniably unique bird. They have numerous distinctive qualities, such as wings without the ability to fly. These enormous, egg-laying birds have peculiar eating habits and oral structures. They even have a three-tiered digestive system that takes about 36 hours to break down food! But as awe-striking as the ostrich is, one question still lingers: do they have teeth? Below, we explore everything you need to know about ostrich teeth.

Do Ostriches Have Teeth?

Animals with large eyes– ostrich

As a bird, the ostrich lacks teeth.


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Ostriches may be unique in their own way, but they are still birds. And as birds, ostriches don’t possess any teeth.

Unlike humans and other animals, birds (including ostriches) do not require teeth to bite or chew food to digest it. Ostriches utilize a different method for doing this, which helps them effectively digest food without the need for teeth. In place of teeth, ostriches have beaks and a distinct digestive system that compensates for their lack of teeth. 

Ostriches can easily pick up food, tear them apart, and swallow them, thanks to their wide, powerful beaks and blunt ridges. The swallowed food travels to the second stomach, where it is chewed and eventually digested. Ostriches and their avian predecessors all possess strong, long, wide, and pinkish-gray beaks. They also use their beaks to break the roots of tiny plants, search for food, and gather leaves from trees.

What Is the Ostrich’s Beak Made Of?

ostrich flock

The beaks of ostriches are made of calcium and keratin.


The rounded tip and flat, broad beaks of ostriches are composed primarily of calcium. Another hard protein called keratin makes up most of the bony portion of the beak.

The upper portion of the beak is referred to as the maxilla, and the lower portion is the mandible. To help them cut through whatever food they are consuming, these two components can slide over each other like two shears.

Because keratin is present, most people believe that the bird’s beak is not responsive to pain. However, the idea that an ostrich’s beak is not vulnerable to damage and cannot experience pain is merely a myth or a misunderstanding. There are numerous blood arteries and other delicate cells and tissues in an ostrich’s beak. In the event of an injury, the bird may experience severe agony.

How Do Ostriches Eat Their Food?

You might be curious as to how ostriches chew food without teeth. Besides being sharp, the ridges around an ostrich’s beak are powerful enough to disintegrate food. Ostrich beaks are robust, so they can digest most of the food they try to eat. The beak is often large, flat, has a rounded tip, and can securely grasp food and break it into smaller bits. Ostriches can eat plants by tearing off their leaves, roots, and twigs. Their flat beaks and rounded tips can also catch small insects and lizards.

The ostrich’s stomach is where most of the chewing takes place. The lengthy intestine of ostriches takes 36 hours to digest food. This food digestion method is comparable to how humans and other animals chew their food. 

Ostriches use their beaks to break food into tiny pieces before eating it since they lack teeth, which prevents food from being chewed before entering the stomach. The first stomach is the gallbladder-like glandular stomach. The food is digested into a paste-like consistency so that it can be quickly absorbed in the gizzard, the second stomach in this process.

To assist in the gizzard’s food-grinding process, ostriches ingest pebbles. There may be two to 11 pounds of pebbles in the ostrich’s gizzard at any given moment since they are constantly searching for a complex object to swallow. In addition to these stones, the digestive juices also affect the digestion process.

Do Ostriches Bite?

Ostriches are toothless animals, but they do bite. Don’t be fooled by an ostrich’s lack of teeth; if you come too close to its beak, it will try to snap your finger off. In addition, they may defend themselves using the long, pointed claws on their feet. They do not possess robust teeth for biting, but they defend themselves using their powerful beak.

Ostrich beaks are strong, and they can instantly grab and bite your finger with their beaks, injuring you severely. A bite from an ostrich is typically not as bad as one from a dog or a monkey, but it can break your finger’s skin and draw blood. Ostrich bites may carry a decreased risk of infection though, but they can still be very painful and must be treated right away.

What Do Ostriches Eat?

What Do Ostriches Eat
Ostriches are omnivores, eating mostly plant material, but also eating insects and small lizards.

About 60% of an ostrich’s diet in the wild consists of plant matter, including flowers, grass, leaves, bushes, sprouts, and succulents. Fruits and beans make up 15% of their diet, while insects like bugs and small mammals make up 5%. Ostriches also consume about 20% of grains, salts, and even stones.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/slowmotiongli

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  1. Earth Life, Available here: https://earthlife.net/birds/do-ostrich-have-teeth
  2. Farming Base, Available here: https://farmingbase.com/do-ostriches-have-teeth/