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Darwin’s rhea

Rhea pennata

Darwin’s rhea

Darwin’s rheas are ratites. Ratites are a group of flightless birds that includes the ostrich, the emu, cassowaries, kiwis and Darwin’s rheas. The Darwin’s rhea is also known as the lesser rhea.

These birds are fast runners and are able to reach speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour, which allows them to outrun their predators. They attempt to confuse their predators by running in a side to side motion before retracing their steps and squatting in the grass. Their mottled brown feathers provide camouflage for the bird.

The rhea is a very sociable bird. During the breeding season, however, the male becomes very aggressive and protective. The female will lay up to 30 eggs but it is the male that incubates the eggs and rears the chicks. If any of the eggs do not hatch, they are kept near the nest. The male and the chicks feed on the flies that are attracted to the eggs as they rot.

Habitat
Grasslands

Diet - Omnivore
Darwin’s rheas eat mostly plant matter, including roots, shoots, seeds and leaves. They will also eat insects.

Size
Its body length can be up to 95 centimetres (cm) and it can weigh up to 25 kilograms.

Location
The Darwin’s rhea is found in scrub forest and grassland along the Andean plateau in South America, through the countries of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia.

Conservation status
The IUCN believes that Darwin’s rheas will face extinction in the future.

Threats
The Darwin’s rhea is hunted for its eggs, feathers and meat. Other threats include habitat destruction for agriculture and, in some areas, it is hunted for sport.

Current population
It is unknown how many Darwin’s rheas are left in the wild, but it is believed that they are declining.

Zoo population
There are 100 Darwin’s rhea living in zoos around the world.