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Rhea (Rhea americana)
Rhea birds are among the largest species classification, the Ratite family, and are the largest in South America. Ratites are flightless birds. Some commonly known Ratite relatives are the Emu and the Ostrich. The Rhea has two species, the Common Rhea and Darwin's Rhea. Although they cannot fly, they still have wings and they are useful to balance the large bird. The Common Rhea stands about 4 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds. Their wings can also change their directions while they are running, one of its defense mechanisms. Both species within the Rheidae family are both partially brown, the Common Rhea with a white underbelly and Darwin's Rhea has white tips on their feathers.
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Rheas - Mutual of Omaha
Raising Rheas From Egg to Adult
The species' name Rhea comes from the Greek Goddess Rhea, “mother of the gods” who birthed 6 of the well-known gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. This name was given by a German man by the name of P.H.H Mohring in 1752, but no one knows why for sure. Darwin's Rhea was named after a man, Charles Darwin. He was an explorer in Patagonia, puzzled at the time that people had talked of two closely related species living in the same place because it went against the widely accepted theory at the time that all species were born in one form, perfectly adapted to their environment. He discovered the Darwin's Rhea (known as Lesser Rhea at the time) on his dinner plate and arranged its bones to find it a different species completely than the Common (or Greater) Rhea. He went on to share his findings through a theory that states that species are not "fixed" and can evolve over time.
The Rhea species is polygamous, males having multiple partners lay their eggs in the nests they make. After their nest is filled with eggs laid by several female birds, the male is responsible for incubating and protecting the eggs once hatched. Like all Ratite family birds, the male is very territorial and aggressive around this time and will attack any threats, even female birds of the same species and of the same nest.
Some Ratites are shy and go about life solitary, others are monogamous having relationships last as long as 20 years or more, but the Rhea species is a social one that travels in packs of 10 birds or more (less in Darwin's species and more in Common Rhea).
In danger, these birds will run in an efficient zig zag pattern, turning each wing one after the other to switch directions. They are omnivorous and will eat plants, small animals, and insects it finds.
Rhea is farmed in North America and Europe for their feathers, leather, eggs, and meat mostly. Although they benefit farmers by consuming pesty insects, they've also been known to consume crops they like such as cabbage and bok choi. Some farmers kill Rhea that have eaten their crops. This, along with their decline in habitat and natural predators has left this species classified "almost endangered".