Status: Near Threatened
Range & Habitat
East and Southeast America from the Amazon to Northern Patagonia. Grasslands, semi-arid scrubland, cattle farming areas.
They have been hunted for years for feathers and meat. A permit is need for any importation or exportation, because they are on the CITES list, which means they are endangered.
They are a member of the ratite family with ostriches and emus. They have three claws on each foot. With their powerful legs they can either out run or kick at a potential predator. They have even been known to attack people on horseback.
Reproduction & Growth
Rheas are polygamous with males courting between two and 12 females. After mating, he builds a nest, in which each female lays her eggs. The male incubates from 10-60 eggs, each weighing about two pounds. Incubation lasts about 40 days, the chicks hatch within 36 hours of each other. The females, meanwhile, may move on and mate with other males.
While caring for the young, the males will charge at anyone - including humans and female rheas who approaches the chicks. Males defend their nest by lowering theirheads and hissing, often grasping each other's beaks. Males raise chicks independently of a female. Rheas are sexually mature at two years.
In the Wild: Broadleaf plants, weeds and clover. In the Zoo: Dry ratite pellets, fruit, greens, Meat eating bird diet.