Darwin’s rhea is a type of lesser rhea. Their feathers are brown with mottled white tips. Females are usually duller in colour than males and young birds have browner feathers with no white areas.
These birds are fast runners, able to reach speeds of up to 60 kph to outrun their predators. They will confuse their pursuer by running in a side to side pattern before retracing their steps and squatting in the grass for cover. Their mottled brown feathers provide great camouflage.
Darwin’s rheas live in groups of 5-30 individuals. During the breeding season they migrate into upland areas sometimes reaching sites that are 2,000 m above sea level. The males will fight to establish a territory, with the victor mating with all the females in his area. He will build a nest into which the female will lay her eggs. She will then leave immediately to find another mate, abandoning the father to take care of the eggs and rear the chicks.
Rhea eat a range of plants, but will also take small animals and insects. They drink rarely as they get most of their water from the succulent plants they eat. These birds also swallow pebbles to aid their digestion.
The Darwin’s rhea is classed as Near Threatened. Their main threat is hunting. However, they are protected, with only native people permitted to kill them for meat, eggs and feathers. They are also threatened by habitat loss due to an increase in farm and grazing land. Young animals are often caught and domesticated, which also reduces wild numbers.
Uploaded: Oct 18, 2015