For animal lovers in Nebraska, the chance to see wild creatures in person is largely limited to zoos and nature parks. While some states are plagued with invasive species first introduced as pets, ostriches are not one of them. There are no wild ostriches in Nebraska, although that doesn’t mean there are none in the state at all.

In this article, we’ll discuss whether there have ever been wild ostriches in Nebraska, where you might see them today, and give you a little information about the natural habitat of these unique birds.


Have There Ever Been Wild Ostriches In Nebraska?

While there is no evidence of modern-day ostriches existing in the wild outside of their native Africa, scientists do believe that a prehistoric relative of the birds was once found in North America. Fossils from this ancient bird, named Calciavis grandei, were discovered in Wyoming in the early 2000s. The specimen was well-preserved, including bones, feathers, and flesh.

Scientists believe these prehistoric ostrich relatives lived between 56 and 30 million years ago when North America had a tropical forest climate. Though the fossils were found in Wyoming, it’s likely the birds ranged further than that, including the area now known as Nebraska.

Bird fossils are not found as frequently as other prehistoric creatures because their bones are hollow and easily destroyed. This may explain why so few fossils of this ancient ostrich relative have been discovered.


Are There Any Ostriches In Nebraska Today?

Ostrich Sleeping
Image Credit: K. Sweet, Shutterstock

Nebraska ostrich fans can see the birds on exhibit at the zoo in Omaha. Outside of the zoo, ostriches can also be found on farms in the state.

According to the 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, there are about 4,700 ostriches spread across farms nationwide. Nebraska is not one of the top ostrich farming states, with just over 50 birds found on four farms.

Worldwide, ostrich farming has gone through cycles of popularity but currently occurs in over 50 countries. In the United States, ostrich farms were all the rage about 30 years ago, but demand for ostrich products never took off and the industry almost disappeared. In the past few years, however, interest is slowly growing again.

Ostrich meat is similar to beef but considered healthier and more climate-friendly to raise. The feathers and leather of the birds are useful for the fashion industry as well, offering several possible income streams for farmers.

Where Do Ostriches Live In The Wild?

Ostriches are found throughout the African continent, including the countries of Nigeria, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Morocco. Their natural habitat includes savannas, grasslands, and dry shrublands with tropical or subtropical climates. In their native lands, ostriches share space with other well-known African animals like lions, cheetahs, and giraffes.

Ostriches are omnivores who eat a variety of plant materials as well as insects, lizards, and other invertebrates. Partially thanks to the emergence of ostrich farms, wild populations of these birds are not in danger of disappearing. Some subspecies of ostrich were hunted to extinction in previous years, but captive bird populations can fill the demand for ostrich products these days.



Wild ostriches may not roam the plains of Nebraska as they do in Africa, but a small number of captive birds are found on farms and at the zoo in the state. Fossil evidence suggests that an ancestor of the ostrich once inhabited North America, including Nebraska. While Nebraska may not be home to wild ostriches, you can still find plenty of native birds and wildlife to observe and protect statewide.

Featured Image Credit: Arulonline, Pixabay