Darwin's Rhea (Rhea pennata), also known as the Lesser Rhea, is a large flightless bird, It is found in the Altiplano and Patagonia in South America.
The Lesser Rhea stands at 90–100 cm (35–39 in) tall. Length is 92–100 cm (36–39 in) and weight is 15–28.6 kg (33–63 lb). Like most ratites, it has a small head and a small bill, the latter measuring 6.2 to 9.2 cm (2.4 to 3.6 in), but has long legs and a long neck. It has relatively larger wings than other ratites, enabling it to run particularly well. It can reach speeds of 60 km/h (37 mph), enabling it to outrun predators. The sharp claws on the toes are effective weapons. Their feathers are similar to the Ostrich feather, in that, it has no aftershaft. Their plumage is spotted brown and white, and the upper part of their tarsus is feathered. The tarsus is 28 to 32 cm (11 to 13 in) long and has 18 horizontal plates on the front.
Darwin's Rhea gets its scientific name from Rhea, a Greek goddess, and pennata means winged. The specific name was bestowed in 1834 by Darwin's contemporary and rival Alcide d'Orbigny who first described the bird to Europeans,
The Lesser Rhea is mainly an herbivore, with the odd small animal (lizards, beetles, grasshoppers). It predominately eats saltbush and fruits from cacti, as well grasses. They tend to be quiet birds, except as chicks when they whistle mournfully, and as males looking for a female, they emit a booming call.
The males of this species become aggressive once they are incubating eggs. The females thus lay the later eggs near the nest, rather than in it. Most of the eggs are moved into the nest by the male, but some remain outside, where they rot and attract flies. The male, and later the chicks, eat these flies. The incubation period is 30–44 days, and the clutch size is from 5–55 eggs. The eggs are 87–126 mm (3.4–5.0 in) and are greenish yellow. Chicks mature by three years of age. Outside the breeding season, Darwin's Rhea is quite sociable: it lives in groups of from 5 to 30 birds, of both sexes and a variety of ages.
Here at Blackbrook Zoo we successfully bred the first Darwin’s Rhea in over 100 years!
This is testament to our achievements within our breeding programme.