155. Rhea

Rhea is a ratite, a flightless bird, native to South America. It has a gray brown plumage. It has long neck and long legs similar to those of the Ostrich. Males can grow to a height of 1.5 meters and weigh up to 40 K.G. It has three toes in each leg.

Rhea has very large wings for a flightless bird! But these wings are spread out wide and used like the sails while running fast. When threatened, it runs in a zigzag course, using its wings alternately, as rudders!

Rheas live in flocks of 10 to 100 strong! But they break up during mating season. Usually these birds are silent except when they have chicks to protect and are on a look out for a suitable mate.

Rheas eat broad leafed plants, seeds, roots, fruits, lizards, beetles, grasshoppers and carrion. They are polygamous. Male incubates the 10 to 60 eggs in its nest. A dominant male may order a subordinate male to incubate the eggs, while it goes out to find a new mate.

Males take care of the young chicks and will charge madly at anything threatening the chicks. The chicks grow to full size in about 6 months and start breeding after they become 2 years old.

Rheas are much in demand. Their feathers are used for making feather dusters, skins for making cloaks and leather. Its meat is the staple food for many people.

Visalakshi Ramani


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