Greater Rhea

The greater rhea (Rhea americana) is a large flightless bird native to South America, particularly in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. 

Physical Characteristics: The greater rhea is the largest bird in South America, standing up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall at the shoulder and weighing between 20 to 30 kilograms (44 to 66 pounds). It has a long neck, small head, and long, powerful legs adapted for running. The plumage of the greater rhea is predominantly gray or brown, with lighter underparts and darker feathers on the wings and tail. Males and females have similar appearances, although males are slightly larger on average.

Habitat: Greater rheas inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, savannas, shrublands, and agricultural areas. They are typically found in areas with tall grasses or low vegetation, which provide cover and nesting sites. Greater rheas are well adapted to both dry and humid environments and may move between habitats in search of food and water.

Diet: Greater rheas are omnivorous and feed on a variety of plant and animal matter. Their diet includes grasses, leaves, seeds, fruits, insects, small vertebrates, and carrion. They forage by pecking and probing the ground with their bills, using their keen eyesight and sense of smell to locate food. Greater rheas may also ingest small stones or grit to aid in the grinding of food in their gizzards.

Behavior: Greater rheas are highly social birds and are often seen in groups known as flocks or herds, particularly during the non-breeding season. These flocks may consist of several individuals, ranging from a few birds to dozens or even hundreds in areas with abundant food and water. Greater rheas are primarily diurnal, meaning they are active during the day, and spend much of their time foraging, preening, and resting.

Reproduction: Breeding in greater rheas typically occurs during the austral spring and summer months (October to March). Males establish territories and court females through elaborate displays, including dancing, vocalizations, and puffing out their feathers. Females lay clutches of eggs in shallow depressions scraped in the ground, typically laying between 5 to 50 eggs, with larger clutches more common in areas with abundant food and water. Both males and females may contribute to incubating the eggs, which hatch after about 6 weeks. Chicks are precocial and are able to walk and feed themselves shortly after hatching.

Conservation Status: The greater rhea is currently listed as a species of least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, populations in some regions may be declining due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, hunting, and disturbance by humans. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their remaining habitats, managing wildlife populations, and promoting sustainable land use practices.

Overall, the greater rhea is a fascinating and iconic bird species of South America, known for its large size, social behavior, and adaptability to diverse habitats. With its important ecological role as a seed disperser, herbivore, and prey species, it plays a key role in maintaining the health and balance of ecosystems across its range.

Greater Rhea Gallery


Location - Zoo
Threat Status - Near Threatened

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