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Somali Ostrich Struthio molybdophanes
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This newly-split species is suspected to be undergoing a rapid decline over three generations (50 years) given the apparent severity of a variety of threats including hunting for feathers and food, egg collection and habitat loss and degradation. It has therefore been listed as Vulnerable, but better information on population trends and the scope and severity of threats is highly desirable.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Struthio camelus and S. molybdophanes (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as S. camelus following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

Male 210-275cm, 100-156kg, Female 175-190cm, 90-110kg. 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.

Distribution and population
Struthio molybdophanes is found in north-east Africa, with its range incorporating EthiopiaSomalia, Djibouti and Kenya (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).

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

Trend justification
No trend data are available, but the given the apparently severity of threats including hunting for feathers and food, egg collection and habitat loss and degradation, the species is precautionarily suspected to be undergoing a rapid decline over three generations (50 years).

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).

Ash and Atkins (2009) document threats to and apparent declines in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The eggs are used as ornaments, water containers and symbols or protective devices on churches and graves, birds are shot for target practice, food, leather and feathers, and chased to exhaustion or death by drivers. Habitat loss and degradation undoubtedly represents a further threat.

Conservation and research actions in place

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

Ash, J.; Atkins, J. 2009. Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea: an atlas of distribution. Christopher Helm, London.

Davies, S. 2002. Ratites and Tinamous. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: (Accessed: 19 June 2012).

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Martin, R, Taylor, J. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Struthio molybdophanes. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Struthionidae (Ostriches)
Species name author Reichenow, 1883
Population size Unknown mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,080,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species