The Greater Rhea looks much like the African ostrich. This bird has long legs and neck, a flat beak, big eyes on a relatively small head, and surprisingly soft plumage that covers the entire torso, neck, and hips. Though the Greater Rhea is not able to fly, it uses its wings in a peculiar way. When running the bird picks up one wing, using it to catch the wind like a sailboat. So, in this case, the feathers act as sails. It has a very quick running speed and uses its wings for balance. Also, males use their wide-spread wings to operate their harems.
Outside of breeding season that lasts from August to January, the birds live in flocks of 30 to a hundred individuals, they are less alert and more sociable. Still, it might be too troublesome to pursue such a flock, especially when it's mixed with other wildlife. Therefore, you should better spy for a solitary male Rhea's nest somewhere near water—it looks like a shallow hole in the ground rimmed with various vegetation.
Unusual as it might seem, in this case, the males are in charge of nest building, egg incubation, as well as chicks upbringing. In the meanwhile, females simply go from one nest to another throughout the breeding season and lay an egg in each one. So a single nest might contain up to 60 eggs. The birds are rather noisy during the breeding season which must be helpful while searching.
The Greater Rhea inhabits the steppes of South America. It's endemic to Argentina, as well as its neighbours including Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay. One of the best areas to spot them is the Pampas and open woodlands from the north of Argentina and south to the Río Negro, and particularly the region of Patagonia shared between Argentina and Chile.
When is the best time to see the Greater Rhea in Argentina?
In Argentina, the best time to observe Greater Rheas is from August to January during the breeding season. At this time, their vigilant tendencies are subdued, and they appear to be more relaxed. Solitary male rheas can be located by searching for water bodies where nests can be found with a shallow hole covered by vegetation. Show more
Where is the best place to spot the Greater Rhea in Patagonia?
The Greater Rhea is found in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay within the steppes of South America. Incredible sightings can be enjoyed in the Pampas and scenic broadleaved woodland regions in Argentina, extending south to Rio Negro. Moreover, the bird can be seen in Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia. Show more
How do Greater Rheas use their wings when running?
In spite of being flightless, the Greater Rhea utilizes wings like a sailboat to stabilize itself while running. The wings function as sails when one is lifted and stretched out to take advantage of a gust of wind. Additionally, when running at high speeds, the wings are utilized to enhance stability, especially when changing direction or making a turn. Show more
Are Greater Rheas social animals?
Greater Rheas are social, living in clusters of 30 to a hundred birds outside of the breeding season. However, during the breeding season, the males take over the hareem management with the aid of their broad wings, while females go around nesting, laying one egg each in several nests. During this time, the birds make noise to reflect the activity, while they tend to be less vigilant and more sociable at other times of the year. Show more