Greater rhea

Greater rhea
Rhea americana

Photo by Lip Kee (Flickr)

Common name:
greater rhea (en); ema (pt); nandou d’Amérique (fr); ñandú común (es); nandu (de)

Order Struthioniformes
Family Rheidae

This South American species is found from Bolivia and central and western Brazil south to central Argentina.

These birds are 125-140 cm long and weigh 20-27 kg.

The greater rhea is mostly found in pampas and campo cerrado grasslands, and also in open chaco woodlands and savannas, pastures and arable land, from sea level up to an altitude of 1.200 m.

They mainly feed on grasses blades, seeds and some fruits and berries, especially of Amaranthaceae, Asteraceae, Bignoniaceae, Brassicaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Myrtaceae, Solanaceae, Magnoliaceae, Annonaceae and Lauraceae. They also take grasshoppers, scorpions and small vertebrates such as lizards, frogs, small birds are snakes.

Greater rheas breed in August-January and are polygynous, but unlike most other cases the male is responsible for most of the parental care. Groups of females copulate with a single male and all lay their eggs on the nest he built. The nest is a shallow hole on the ground surrounded by twigs and other plant material. A nest may have 10-60 eggs, from various females, which the male incubates alone for 29-43 days. The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching but remain with the father for up to 6 months, and often remain together after becoming independet and up until they reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years of age.

IUCN status – NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as uncommon to fairly common. The population is undergoing a moderately rapid decline, mainly due to hunting for their skins and meat, and also because of habitat destruction and fragmentation through large-scale conversion of central South American grasslands for agriculture and cattle-ranching.

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