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Rhea pennata

Lesser Rhea

  • Order: Rheiformes
  • Family: Rheidae
  • Polytypic 3 Subspecies


Rhea pennata

Peru; © Richard Gibbons

The Lesser Rhea is one of two species in the rhea family, both of which are confined to South America. Ostrich-like, rheas are flightless but are adept runners, reaching speeds of over 60 km/hr. The smaller of the two species, Lesser Rhea inhabits high-altitude puna in southern Peru and northern Chile, and shrub-steppe and grassland in southern Chile and southern Argentina. The smooth, plumulaceous feathers of this species are brown, tipped with white on the upperparts. Male rheas are simultaneously polygynous, mating with several females that then deposit their eggs in a single nest for him to tend. Females are serially polyandrous, mating with and laying for several males over the course of a season.

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Recommended Citation

. 2010. Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Elevational Migrant
  • Primary Habitat:Southern temperate grassland
  • Foraging Strata:Terrestrial
  • Foraging Behavior:Peck
  • Diet:Omnivorous
  • Sociality:Single-Species Flocks
  • Mating System:Polyandry and Polygyny
  • Nest Form:Scrape
  • Clutch: 6 - 50
  • IUCN Status:Near Threatened