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Do Ostriches Have Suicidal Tendencies?

Have you ever heard that ostriches stick their heads in the sand when scared or stressed? Or are they so dumb they think they’re invisible when they do this? Some people even say ostriches bury their heads because they’re suicidal! 

Crazy, right? 

Ostriches are amazing animals, but there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about them. In this post, we’ll explore whether ostriches bury their heads in the sand and if they have suicidal tendencies. Spoiler alert – the answer is no! Stick with me; you’ll learn some surprising truths about these giant flightless birds.

Do Ostriches Have Suicidal Tendencies?

Do ostriches have suicidal tendencies?

Let’s tackle this rumour head-on (pun intended!). Do ostriches bury their heads in the sand because they’re suicidal? 

The short answer: Absolutely not. 

Ostriches are not known to have any suicidal behaviours. There’s no evidence they purposefully try to harm themselves or have depressive thoughts. Ostriches are built to survive and thrive!

Here are some key facts about ostriches:

  • Ostriches have strong natural instincts to live and reproduce. Their behaviours are aimed at self-preservation, not self-destruction.
  • They have complex social structures and mating rituals, which suggests they have a will to live. 
  • Parent ostriches carefully tend to their eggs and raise their chicks after hatching. They don’t abandon their young.
  • Ostriches have ways to defend themselves from predators, like running up to 43 mph or kicking with their strong legs. It’s not exactly something a suicidal animal would do!

So, while ostriches have small brains compared to body size, there’s no evidence of self-harming or depressive tendencies. Their behaviours point towards finding food, breeding, raising young, and avoiding predators – not suicide!

The myth probably came about because people misunderstood why ostriches put their heads in the sand, which we’ll explore next. But it definitely doesn’t mean they’re suicidal.

Where Do These Rumours Come From?

How did the myth start that ostriches bury their heads in the sand because they’re suicidal? And where did people get the idea they do this at all?

A few theories:

Ancient Roman & Greek Writers 

The first known references to ostriches burying their heads in the sand come from the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. The ancient Greek writer Aristophanes also mentioned it in one of his comic plays.

But these were just assumptions and artistic symbolism – not actual scientific observations.

Their Big Bodies and Small Heads

An ostrich’s body is large and rounded, with a relatively small head perched. When viewed from afar, an ostrich lowering its head to the ground may look like it’s sticking it in the sand. 

Early observers likely saw ostriches pecking the ground and thought their heads were buried.

Hunters Taking Advantage 

There’s a tactical advantage to hunters believing the myth. If ostrich hunters thought the birds hid from danger, it would be easier to sneak up on them.

Of course, we know now the myth isn’t true…but it may have served hunters well long ago!

Their Reputation for Being Stupid

Ostriches have a reputation for being stupid animals. This may be because of their funny appearance or lack of flying ability (what kind of bird can’t fly?). 

The myth of burying their heads reinforced that ostriches are silly creatures lacking common sense. Of course, this reputation is unfair and incorrect!

The myth likely arose from ancient writings, misleading appearances, hunter trickery, and unfair stereotypes. But there’s never been any truth to ostriches being suicidal or trying to bury their heads.

Do Ostriches Bury Their Heads in the Sand?

The suicide rumour may be false, but what about the idea of ostriches burying their heads at all? Do they actually do this?

No, ostriches do not bury their heads or bodies in sand or dirt. Here’s what’s really going on when you see an ostrich with its head down:


Ostriches fold their legs and lie down to rest on the ground about 6-12 times per day, especially at midday when it’s hottest. The head may touch the ground as part of a normal resting posture.


When ostriches preen and clean their feathers, they’ll lower their heads close to their bodies. Their heads aren’t buried. They’re just grooming!

Eating or Drinking

Ostriches are omnivores, eating plants, seeds, roots, fruit, insects, lizards, and more. They spend much of the day foraging for food with their heads down near the ground. The same goes for drinking water.

Avoiding Danger

Instead of hiding, ostriches rely on their powerful legs to run away from threats at up to 43 mph. However, they may occasionally flop down flat against the ground to avoid detection by distant predators. 


When female ostriches build nests, they dig holes up to 2 feet deep in the dirt. Often, they’ll lie with their heads low in the nest when brooding eggs.

Temperature Regulation

In hot weather, ostriches may press their bodies (including their heads) against cool mud or dirt to lower their temperature and conserve water.

So, in all cases, when an ostrich puts its head down, it’s just exhibiting natural behaviours – not trying to bury its head foolishly!

The Truth About Ostriches

Now you know the facts – ostriches don’t have suicidal thoughts, and they don’t bury their heads. Let’s end by talking about what amazing animals ostriches truly are.

Here are some awesome truths about ostriches:

  • They’re the largest birds in the world, up to 9 feet tall and 350 pounds! 
  • Ostriches can’t fly, but they’re incredible runners, sprinting up to 43 mph. Their legs can kill lions and hyenas with a strong forward kick.
  • They have the largest eyes of any land animal (2 inches wide) with fantastic vision. Their eyes are bigger than their brains!
  • Ostriches have fluffy, specialised feathers that help insulate them from temperature extremes like hot deserts or cold winters.
  • The male ostriches booming courtship call can be heard up to 2 miles away!
  • Their wings are useless for flying but great for steering when running and balancing the body.
  • Ostriches are the only bird species with two toes on each foot. This helps their running efficiency.

So, ostriches certainly aren’t dumb or suicidal! They’re highly intelligent, resourceful birds that are masters of running, Adaptability and survival. Their unique appearance and behaviours may have caused some silly myths, but ostriches deserve our appreciation, not unfair stereotypes.

The next time you hear someone say ostriches bury their heads in the sand because they’re suicidal, set the record straight with the facts. Share what amazing animals ostriches really are!