Approved by Dr. Paola Cuevas

Ostriches have unique qualities that fall between a bird, a mammal, and a reptile. You’ve probably seen an ostrich at your local zoo, or maybe you enjoyed visiting an ostrich farm in Africa. Can you believe bigger birds existed at one point?

Nevertheless, they’re the world’s largest bird, and they pique everyone’s interest eventually. When people dive into the interesting-facts rabbit hole, a question people tend to ask about ostriches is if they spit

The answer is yes. Let’s explore why that is.


Why an Ostrich Spits

To understand why ostriches spit, you must understand how their bodies work. Ostriches are omnivores. They graze on seeds, plants, and sometimes small reptiles. However, like many birds, they don’t have teeth. They swallow their food whole.

Many birds swallow pebbles and larger rocks to help break up their food. The food and stones travel through the throat and make a pit stop in the gizzard.

The gizzard serves like a mortar and pestle. It helps grind food with the help of loose stones. The following video may help you better understand how a gizzard works if you’re a visual learner. This video talks about a chicken gizzard, but it works the same way in an ostrich just with larger rocks.

After the food is crushed inside the gizzard, it continues through the body for further digestion. The rocks can stay in the gizzard for days until it’s no longer helping grind food. Since the rocks can’t be digested, the ostrich spits them out.

Do Ostriches Spit When They Attack?

An ostrich may spit on you if it doesn’t like you. If you’ve ever encountered an angry goose, the reaction is similar. Ostriches hiss, spit, and show their wings, all to express their anger.

Ostriches typically avoid humans in the wild since they see us as threats. But they will turn aggressive if they feel the need to defend, especially if they have babies. Ostriches in captivity show the same protective instincts and can even attack when under stress.

Ostriches are territorial creatures and react in ways they feel are necessary. An ostrich will kick you or push you to the ground using its bony breastplate and trample you. However, ostriches don’t spit on people often. Some birds spit as a self-defense technique, but ostriches have not conveyed this behavior much.

Somali Ostrich
Image Credit: Arulonline, Pixabay

Do Ostriches Have Saliva?

We know dogs and cats have saliva. But what about birds? Do they have saliva if they can spit? The answer is yes! At least some do. For example, chickens, parrots, and ducks all produce saliva. However, pelicans don’t produce saliva at all.

But it’s not just so they can spit on us when they’re angry.

Birds, including ostriches, don’t consume their food the same as we do. As we mentioned earlier, birds swallow their food whole and rely on other methods to break down food in the gizzard. Humans need saliva to help aid in digestion. The salivary glands in the back of the throat are only there to help lubricate the throat when they swallow their food whole and then spit it again, this is called regurgitation.

Ostrich standing in a dry field
Image Credit: polyfish, Pixabay



It’s no secret that ostriches aren’t the friendliest animals in the world. They have their reasons for attacking and even spitting on us when they feel threatened. Still, we shouldn’t let that stop us from learning more about them. Ostriches can share affection with humans. But it must be on their time.

So, don’t take it personally if an ostrich spits on you. At least it’s better than a kick to the abdomen!

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels