Flamingo Land is pleased to announce that we have nine new Greater Rhea chicks, which are only just over a week old!
The rhea and their young can be found in our Treetop Walkway area next to the emus and flamingos. Rhea chicks are very fluffy when born, and remain solely in the care of their father, which is unusual in birds. Prior to mating, the male will try to impress the females by ruffling his feathers and shaking his wings. He will then make a nest out of vegetation and it is usually hidden beside bushes. The nest becomes the site for several females to lay their eggs, thus the chicks hatched from one nest will often have different mothers but the same father. The females leave the eggs after laying them, and then continue to mate with other males, leaving the first male behind to raise her young. The male cares for the chicks for around four to six months. After this period, the young will often stick together in a group until they are sexually mature.
Breeding the rhea in captivity is important in maintaining their population numbers. They are classed as near threatened in the wild and their population numbers are decreasing. This is due to farming and hunting them for their skins, meat, eggs and feathers. The rhea skin is used to make leather products, the meat and eggs are eaten, and the feathers are often used as feather dusters. An increase in agricultural land and cattle ranching may also damage the population numbers if they become caught in barbed wire fences.
Rheas are the largest bird found on the Americas, and they are native to Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay. They can reach heights of 1.7 metres, and weigh up to 40 kg. They have fairly large wings considering they are a flightless bird, and they are mainly used for courtship displays. Rheas are classed as a ratite, along with the ostrich, emu, cassowary and kiwi. All of these birds are flightless due to their underdeveloped breast muscles. This results in the birds not being strong enough to support their entire body weight with their wings. Their legs do not contain air chambers, unlike other birds, meaning that their legs are strong and heavy, and therefore very powerful.