American rhea

(Rhea americana)




Facts about this animal

The common rhea is the largest of all South American birds. Head-body length is about 1.3 m, height 1.6 m and the body weight 20-25, occasionally up to 30 kg. The grey feet have three forward-directed toes. The feathers are loose and soft. The colour of the plumage is grey on back, head and neck. Dorehead and nape are blackish, the underparts whitish. The females are smaller than the males and their plumage is entirely light grey.

Rheas are polygamous. The females of a harem group lay their eggs - one every second day for up to ten days - in a common ground nest, which ultimately may hold 50 eggs or more. Initially, the egg coliur is golden and then fades imto creamy-white. The male incubates the eggs of all its mates for six weeks and cares for the newly hatched young. The chicks are yellowish-brown with chestnut-broen markings, white underparts and yellowish-brown feet.

Rheas feed opportunistically on both plant and animal material, including grasses, fruit, and seeds, insects, lizards, birds, and other small vetrebrates.

Did you know?
that rhea eggs are collected for food and many people eat their meat? Also their skins are used in the manufacture of leather, and hunting to supply this trade has thinned their numbers considerably. Today, regulations have limited both hunting and farming rhea for these commercial uses.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Rhea americana
Name (English) American rhea
Name (French) Nandou américain
Name (German) Nandu
Name (Spanish) Ñandú grande
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Adrian Pingstone



Range South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
Habitat Savanna and grassland

In the Zoo

American rhea


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Nino Barbieri

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Common rhea is not an endangered species. Zoos keep them primarily for educational purposes, because of its evolutionary adaptation to a flightless life, its interesting social and reproductive behaviour, and as an essential part of South American grassland exhibits. It is also a good ambassador species for the conservation of the pampas.