Rhea

November 11th, 2009 Posted in fauna

rheas and ocean

Written by Shanie

Loving the ability to see animals of the wild kingdom in their natural habitat on a fairly regular basis, there are some creatures that make my smile extra wide. One of those is the Rhea.

In reality, the rhea is two species — the Greater or American Rhea and the Lesser or Darwin’s Rhea. This agile bird is native to South America and is an obvious cousin to the ostrich.

A member of the ratite club, it uses its wings for productivity other than flying. Around 5 and a half feet in height and the size of a small woman (say under a hundred pounds), these grey-brown, showgirl-feathered graceful runners are known to use their wings as a sail while escaping a predator. They tilt the appendages, using them to assist in their zig zag get-away techniques.

They enjoy the open landscape of the steppe, an environment that proves sustainable for their habits of running in groups of ten to a hundred during the lull of breeding pheromones, as well as finding floral treats such as fuzzy-leafed plants, seeds and roots. Their diet extends into the extravagant with grasshoppers, beetles, lizards, and, even, caviar.

A few unique characteristics about the Rhea:

The have three toes, uncommon for birds…

and..

they are polygamous.

The mating ritual is an interesting affair where the males go about their business trying to fornicate with as many females as possible. Not so unusual, I know. But here’s the intriguing part…during this same time they are multi-tasking by sitting on the incubating eggs that are placed within a shallow nest softened with grass.

Now, I know some human men that have a hard time with multi-tasking…so I find this particularly interesting.

The bully boys do from time to time convince a weaker male to sit on their harem of eggs while they go find other girls to pass their seed on to. Another interesting fact…they leave a few eggs outside of the nest to lure evil-doers, having the history of nature prove that the decoy and sacrifice of a couple saves the majority. During this time, the ladies continue on their leisurely way, having little to do with the men or the kids. After hatching, the birds are protected by a charging father that will physically threaten any that come near, including the females. At six months the chicks have reached adult stature and will continue the cycle of life around two years.

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