Species profile

Name: rheas are large flightless birds that are distantly related to ostriches and emus. There are two main species of rhea – the greater or American rhea (Rhea Americana), and the lesser or Darwin’s rhea (Rhea pennata). The IUCN also recognises a third species called the puna rhea (Rhea tarapacensis).

Appearance: rheas have grey-brown feathers, long legs, and long necks similar to ostriches. Unlike most birds, they only have three toes.

Size: greater rheas can reach up to 1.7 m tall and weigh up to 40 kg. Darwin’s rheas are smaller, reaching around 1.0 m and weighing 28 kg. Their wings are large for a flightless bird, reaching up to 2.5 m across, and are spread while running to act like sails.

Diet: rheas are mostly vegetarian and prefer broad-leafed plants. They also eat fruits, seeds, and roots, as well as insects, small reptiles, and rodents.

Did you know: despite being native to South America, a small population of rheas is now living in Germany after escaping from a farm in the 1990s. They have adapted well to the German countryside and the population is estimated to be over 500. A monitoring system has been put in place since 2008 and it seems that the population is growing steadily. Local farmers claim that they damage crops and some biologists suggest they could be a threat to local wildlife. However, they are protected by German law and there is a discussion over how best to handle the situation.

Location: rheas are native to South America and can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. They live in open grasslands, pampas, and chaco woodlands. 

Where to see rheas

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see rheas in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Torres del Paine
very good
Los Glaciares
very low
very good

Photo credit: ccho under a Creative Commons license from Flickr

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