Lesser Rhea

The Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata) is a large flightless bird. It is also known as Darwin’s Rhea. It cannot fly. Birds that cannot fly are called ratites. The ostrich, kiwi, and cassowary are also ratites.

The Lesser Rhea is emu-like with a body of large fluffy grey or brown spotted feathers, a long neck, and long legs. It has three toes like the emu (the ostrich has two toes). Its toes have sharp claws. Its head, neck, rump, and thighs are feathered. It has a small head and a small beak. 

Lesser Rhea

It grows to 92-100 centimetres (36-39 inches) long from beak to tail. It is 90-100 centimetres (35-39 inches) tall.

The Lesser Rhea is native to South America in the Patagonian steppes of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. It prefers open areas, such as grasslands, savannahs, or grassy wetlands. It does not like humid, tropical regions.

It can run fast, reaching speeds of 60 kilometres per hour (37 miles per hour). 

It eats leaves, seeds, fruit, insects, scorpions, spiders, rodents, reptiles, and small birds. It swallows small pebbles to help it grind down its food for easier digestion. 

Its predators include the cougar and the jaguar, and sometimes wild dogs. 

It is often seen in flocks of 10-100 individuals. 

The male Lesser Rhea makes a nest on the ground. The female lays 5-10 large eggs. The male looks after the eggs of several females in one nest. He may look after as many as 80 eggs. The eggs are half the size of ostrich eggs. They hatch after 29-43 days.

The Lesser Rhea has an average life expectancy of 10 years.

Lesser Rhea
Lesser Rhea
Lesser Rhea
Lesser Rhea
Lesser Rhea
Lesser Rhea
Lesser Rhea

[Location of photographs: Parc Zoologique de Paris in Bois de Vincennes, France]

Photographer: Martina Nicolls

Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

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