Part of a group of the flightless bird family, this is still no bird to be messed with. They are the largest bird that can be found in South America.
Related to the Ostrich of Africa and the Emu of Australia this bird is part of the flightless bird group also known as “ratites.” Birds which are in this group lack the keel in the breastbone which the flight muscles attach to the bird. Charles Darwin described these birds as the South American Ostrich. The plumage of the greater rhea is generally greyish-brown, with darker patches on the neck and upper back, and whitish feathers on the thighs and abdomen. There are two species of Rhea: Greater or American Rhea and Darwin’s Rhea. They differ in size and in the type of habitat they inhabit. They have very powerful legs which are specifically designed to run, nevertheless, they do have another function and that is for kicking. If hunted or scared by a predator they will kick out releasing an almighty blow. The feathers also can be used to help them keep balance and steer when running up to maximum speed (35mph).
As mentioned before they are from South America, they usually inhabit tall grasslands, open woodland, and wooded savannah. The countries included would be Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and Brazil. There top threat in the wild will be Jaguars and Cougar.
Their diet will consist of roots, leaves, fruits, and seeds. For most farmers they are a pest due to them eating a lot of the agricultural crops, on the other hand, they do eat the weeds and can eat insects which would have otherwise destroyed the plants/crops. Like most other birds they will eat stones to swallow pebbles to help digest their food. The Rhea will often feed with other animals, taking advantage of them to find food and for protection. They can be seen feeding alongside herds of pampas deer, guanacos, and domestic livestock.
As part of the social structure, they can be found in groups of 30 birds. Also known as a flock of Rhea. Meanwhile when the breeding season hits the females will get into groups of about 12 individuals groups and males will become more territorial. You might think it’s a lion but the Rhea will let off a low grunting sound to attract a group of females to him. The Rheas are known as polygamous, once the female has bred, it will lay the eggs for the male to incubate. The female will then find another male to do exactly the same this can happen up to 12 times. The male will build a little nest just using his feet to dig a little hole in the ground for the eggs. The female can deposit 8 – 10 eggs at one time.
Meaning over the course of the breeding season the male can have up to 80 eggs in a nest to incubate. Incubation takes around 35 to 40 days, and once one egg has started it will set off a synchronized hatching, with all eggs hatching in a 35 hour period of each other. Males will look after the young for 4 months, protecting them from danger, heat and the cold using them big wings as shelter. Although the Juvenile might not stay in the same flock as the adults once sexual maturity sets in (2 years), they will always stay together and join another flock or start their own.
An Interesting Fact You Didn’t Know Before Reading This!!!!
Young rhea grows quickly and it reaches adult size in six months. However, it will not mate until it reaches the age of 2 to 3 years old.