Leucistic Rhea

Ginny York

Amherst, United States

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This was taken at the Virginia Safari Park in Natural Bridge, Virginia, USA. There were quite a few of the grey Rheas there…and a few of the Leucistic type like this one with the white feathers and blue eyes. Taken with my Canon Powershot SX110 IS (BEST VIEWED LARGE)

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Greater Rhea
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Greater Rhea (Rhea americana) is also known as the Grey, Common or American Rhea. The native range of this flightless bird is the eastern part of South America. It is not only the largest species of the genus Rhea but also the largest American bird alive. It is also notable for its reproductive habits, and for the fact that a group has established itself in Germany in recent years. In its native range, it is known as ñandú (Spanish) or ema (Portugues).

The adults have an average weight of 44–60 lbs and 51 in. long from beak to tail. They usually stand about 5 ft. tall. The males are generally bigger than the females. Males can weigh up to 88 lbs and measure over 59 in. long.

The legs are long and strong, and have three toes. The wings of the American Rhea are rather long; the birds use them during running to maintain balance during tight turns, and can reach speeds of up to 40 mph.

Greater Rheas have a fluffy, tattered-looking plumage. The feathers are gray or brown, with high individual variation, In general, males are darker than females. Even in the wild – particularly in Argentina – leucistic individuals (with white body plumage and blue eyes) as well as albinos occur. Hatchling Greater Rheas are grey with dark lengthwise stripes.

Greater Rheas breed in the warmer months, between August and January depending on the climate. Males are simultaneously polygynous, females are serially polyandrous. In practice, this means that the females move around during breeding season, mating with a male and depositing their eggs with the male before leaving him and mating with another male. Males on the other hand are sedentary, attending the nests and taking care of incubation and the hatchlings all on their own. Although recent evidence suggest that dominant males may enlist a subordinate male to roost for him while he starts a second nest with a second harem. The nests are thus collectively used by several females and can contain as many as 80 eggs laid by a dozen females. Each individual female’s clutch numbers some 5-10 eggs. However, the average clutch size is 26 with 7 different females eggs.

Rhea eggs measure about 5.1 in × 3.5 in and weigh 21 oz on average. They are thus less than half the size of an ostrich egg. Their shell is greenish-yellow when fresh but soon fades to dull cream when exposed to light. The nest is a simple shallow and wide scrape in a hidden location; males will drag sticks, grass, and leaves in the area surrounding the nest so it resembles a firebrak as wide as their neck can reach. The incubation period is 29–43 days. All the eggs hatch within 36 hours of each other even though the eggs in one nest were laid perhaps as much as two weeks apart. As it seems, when the first young are ready to hatch they start a call resemebling a pop-bottle rocket, even while still inside the egg, thus the hatching time is coordinated. Greater Rheas are half-grown about three months after hatching, and sexually mature by their 14th month.

A male Leucistic Rhea laying on a nest of eggs

Artwork Comments

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