What kind of bird is the greater rhea?

The greater rhea is a flightless bird native to South America. It is the largest bird in both North and South America and is related to ostriches and emus. It is 4 feet tall and weighs about 26 kg. It is much smaller than ostriches (which are 9 feet tall and weigh 140 kg) and emus (which are 7 feet tall and weigh 56 kg).

The greater rhea has a light-coloured head and neck with beautiful blue eyes. It has fawn-coloured feathers on its body and powerful long legs, which it uses to outrun predators. Even though its large wings are useless for flight, they are used for balance and for changing direction as the bird runs.

Rheas are opportunistic feeders that eat plants, fruits, seeds and also insects, lizards, birds and other small game. Unfortunately rheas also like to eat crops, which annoy many South American farmers. As more open grasslands are converted to farmland, this problem is likely to become even more severe.

In the wild, the greater rhea lives for about 10 years. Did you know that in August 2000 a captive group of rheas escaped a farm in Germany and established a population in Northern Germany? You could call them pioneer rheas like the pioneers that settled America!

Rheas are farmed for their eggs and meat. Their skins are used in the manufacture of leather and hunting has reduced their numbers considerably. Today, regulations are in place that limits both hunting and farming the greater rhea for commercial use. This species is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN.

Picture Credit : Google

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