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Lesser Rhea

About Lesser Rhea

This bird is a large flightless bird with a small head, long neck, bulky body and long legs with three-toed feet adapted for fast running. The feathers are smooth, soft and brown with white spots and fringes on upperparts.

This bird breeds from September to January in the north, July to November in the south. The male will fight rivals to get together a harem of females. He makes a scrape on the ground, about 3 feet (1m) across, thinly lines with plant material. Several of the females take turns laying their eggs which are yellowish-green in color. The nest can contain up to 50 eggs. They are incubated by the male for about 40 days.

Rheas are gregarious birds, usually found in loose flocks of 5-30 outside of the breeding season. Males are very territorial during the breeding season. When it runs to escape dogs or other enemies, a rhea raises one wing and lowers the other, which enables it make quick changes of direction.

The northern Rheas have been close to extinction due to hunting for the meat, skins and feathers and the taking of eggs; only a few hundred individuals survive.