Rhea (the Common Rhea) / Rhea americana

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Females lay their eggs—one every other day for a week or ten days—in a ground nest built by the male

Like many birds which feed on tough plant matter, the Greater Rhea swallows pebbles which help grind down the food for easy digestion

The Common rhea is the largest of all South American birds and is related to ostriches of Africa and the emus and cassowaries of Australia and New Guinea. These large flightless birds use their long, powerful legs to outrun trouble. They can reach speeds of 60 km per hour (37mph) and although their plumed wings are unsuitable for flight, they are very useful when used for balancing and changing direction as the bird runs.

Common rheas are polygamous, so males have many different mates. Several females deposit their eggs in the same nest, which may hold 50 eggs or more. The male rhea incubates the eggs of all its mates for six weeks and cares for the newly-hatched young. They aggressively guard their young during this period and will charge any animal—even a female rhea—that approaches too closely.

Males are solitary in the spring breeding season, but in winter, rheas are social and flock together. They often congregate with other large animals, such as deer and guanacos, and form mixed herds.

They are opportunistic eaters. They enjoy plants, fruits, and seeds but also eat insects, lizards, birds, and other small game. Rheas have a taste for agricultural crops, which earns them the ire of many South American farmers. This problem is made worse as more and more grassland is converted to farmland.