- Is the largest bird on the American continent.
- Have a deep call that sounds mammal-like, mostly used by males in the breeding season.
- Can run over long distances and are also good swimmers.
- Usually live in flocks of around 30 individuals, though males may be solitary.
Animals — Aves (birds) — Rheiformes (Rheas & relatives) — Rheidae (rheas)
Greater rheas are a type of flightless large bird that live in South America. They look similar to emus on first glance, but are smaller and paler. In particular, they have much paler heads, necks and legs than emus (which themselves have black feathers on the head).
They are social birds, most being found in mixed-sex flocks of up to 30 or more, with the exception of older males, which may be solitary. Their breeding habits are unusual as males raise the young. Males defend a territory in the mating season where they will display to females, attempting to mate so they will lay eggs in the nest he has prepared. The female will then move on, and the male will try to attract more females, with up to 12 females laying eggs in his nest! The male incubates the eggs and raises the young for 4-6 months, until they are old enough. He may even adopt lost/abandoned chicks that are not his! The young will stay together until they are ready to breed, at about 2-3 years old.
Rheas are often seen roaming alongside other native animals, such as vicunas. They eat mostly plant material and some small animals (such as insects or frogs), and typically swallow small stones to help them grind down their food.
They are classified as “Near Threatened” (NT) which means that they are declining. This is mostly due to hunting for their meat and skins, and the conversion of grasslands to agriculture. It is hard to know for certain how many survive in the wild due to captive bred birds that have become feral.
Habitat: Open woodland, tropical savannah and grasslands with tall vegetation.
–Average weight: 23kg
–Average length: 1.3m
In the wild up to: 10 years
In captivity up to: 20 years
Diet: They are omnivores and so eat plants and meat. They prefer clover and broad leaf plants, and will small invertebrates such as insects.
Distribution: Eastern South America