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Greater Rhea - BirdForum Opus

Alternative Names: Gray Rhea, Common Rhea, American Rhea.

Photo by jocateme
Eldorado, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, July 2007
Rhea americana


Length: 129 cm (51 in). Weight: Wt. 25 kg (55 lbs)
The Greater Rhea is not only the largest species of Rhea but the largest American bird.

Similar Species

The Greater Rhea has many similarities to the Ostrich but it is about half the height at 1.5 metres and it has a feathered rather than a bare neck.

Since the Rhea is found only in South America, there will be no confusion with the African Ostrich.

Photo by jocateme
Eldorado, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, October 2007


South America: found in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina



Five subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • R. a. araneipes - western Brazil (southern Rondônia and Mato Grosso), eastern Bolivia, and western Paraguay (chaco region)
  • R. a. americana - central and northeastern Brazil (to Rio Grande do Norte) to southern Brazil (south to São Paulo and Paraná)
  • R. a. nobilis - Eastern Paraguay (east of the Río Paraguay)
  • R. a. albescens - Plains of Argentina south to Río Negro
  • R. a. intermedia - extreme southern Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul) and Uruguay


Displaying male
Photo by Daniesser
Bonito-MS, Brazil, September 2009

Grassland, savanna, scrub forest, chaparral, and even desert, but prefers areas with at least some tall vegetation.


Due to their remarkable immune system injured birds heal swiftly with little intervention.


They are omnivorous but their main diet is plant based, including seeds, roots, leaves and fruit, supplemented with insects.


During breeding season (which ranges from August to January in South America, April to August in North America), it stays near water. Males are highly territorial.


Classified as Near Threatened, rheas are hunted for food and are regarded as a pest by some farmers. They are also killed for their feathers which are used in feather dusters sold mainly in Japan and the USA.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved August 2014)
  4. Statemaster

Recommended Citation

External Links

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