We now have two Greater Rheas at the reserve. Rheas are an impressive sight, at nearly one and a half metres in height with a startling spread of wing; though flightless, their wingspan can exceed two and a half metres.
These flightless birds are the largest birds in South America. Their reproduction process is unusual in that the polygamous male tries to mate with several females who he then get to lay their eggs in his nest. If successful, he can have the eggs of up to 10 females in his nest. He incubates the eggs and looks after the hatchlings.
Because of their size they have few natural predators; though jaguars and pumas are known to prey on them, losses to the big cats are relatively small. Unfortunately, Man's ability to devastate species extends to rheas, and they are now officially listed as near-threatened. The main culprit has been loss of habitat as so much of South America is converted to ranch and forrestry. However, Rheas are also frequently regarded as pests owing to their fondness for cultivated plants such as cabbage. They also eat invertebrates, seeds and fruit.
During the breeding season, September to November, the male will emit very low frequency booming calls and will frequently spread his wings and wave his neck around if there is a female around. At our reserve this occurs a lot in Sept/Oct and generally the female completely ignores his advances.