For the first time large and flightless birds that resemble ostriches, the Europeans saw in the beginning of the 16th century. And the first description of these creatures in literature refers to 1553, when Spanish Explorer, traveler and priest Pedro Cieza de Leon in the first part of his book «Chronicle of Peru».
Despite the considerable resemblance of the African ostriches, RHEAS, the degree of their relationship is still a matter of controversy in scientific circles, because in addition to the similarities, the differences between these birds abound.
Description and features of ostrich Rhea
Unlike their African relatives, the ostrich Rhea for the photos and the camera reacts quite calmly, not trying to hide or escape. If this bird doesn’t like something, Nandu utters a guttural cry, very reminiscent of the sound of the growl of a large predator such as a lion or Cougar, and if you don’t see that the sound emitted by the ostrich, to determine its belonging to the bird’s throat is simply impossible.
The same bird may attack who approached too close, its wings, each of which has a sharp claw, stepping in the direction of a potential enemy and hissing threateningly.
The size of ostrich Rhea is much smaller than the African birds. The growth of the largest individuals only reaches four-foot mark. The weight of the South American ostriches are also much smaller than the African beauties. Common Rhea weighs 30-40 kg, and carried darwinova Nandu even less – 15-20 kg.
The neck is South American ostriches are covered with soft, dense feathers, and on his feet they have three toes. As for the speed of a running ostrich Rhea can race, giving 50-60 km/h by balancing widely spaced wings. And that would get rid of parasites, they roll in dust and mud.
According to the descriptions of the first Portuguese and Spanish explorers, these birds were domesticated by the Indians. With it, not only in the usual sense of the poultry.
Nandu not only gave people meat. Eggs and feathers for making jewelry, they acted as dogs, performing security and, possibly, hunting and fishing function.
These birds are great swimmers, even the broad river with fast currents they are not afraid. For some time the population was under threat due to the high popularity of hunting for Nandu. However, now the situation improved, and the popularity of the owners of the ostrich farms is much higher than their African relatives.
The lifestyle and habitat of the ostrich Rhea
Ostrich Rhea lives in South America, namely Paraguay, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. To meet darwinova Nandu on a high plateau, this bird feels at the height of 4000-5000 meters, they have chosen the extreme South of the continent with a very harsh climate.
A distinctive feature of Rhea and African ostrich is the presence of a third finger. Natural environment for these birds are extensive savannahs and lowlands of Patagonia, the large mountain plateau with small rivers.
In addition to South America, a small population of Nandu lives in Germany. Reason of this migration of ostriches has become a scandalous case. In 1998, the ostrich farm in the North-East of the country, in the town of lübeck, fled a flock of Rhea, which consists of several couples. The reason for that was not strong enough in the cages and low fences.
As a result of the negligence of the farmers, birds were released and quite easily adapted to the new conditions of life. They live on the territory of about 150-170 sq m, and the number of flocks approaching dvumstam.
Regular monitoring of livestock has been ongoing since 2008, and to study the behavior and life of ostriches RHEAS winter in Germany attracts scientists from around the world.
Live in natural conditions these birds flocks number up to 30-40 individuals during the breeding season the flock breaks into small groups-families. A strict hierarchy in such communities no.
Rhea bird is self-sufficient, and a collective way of living rather than a necessity, but a necessity. If the territory in which dwells a flock of safe, older males often leave their relatives and go, starting to lead a solitary lifestyle.
The owls do not migrate, lead a sedentary life, with a few exceptions – in the case of fires or other disasters birds looking for new territories. Very often, especially on the territory of the pampas, flocks of ostriches are mixed with herds of guanaco, deer, cows or sheep. This friendship helps survival, more rapid detection of enemies and protection from them.
The nutrition of ostrich Rhea
What is common in the diet of ostriches, RHEAS and cassowaries, as is their omnivorous. Giving preference to grass, broadleaf plants, fruits, grains and berries, they will never give up on insects, small arthropods and fish.
Can eat carrion and waste products of cloven-hoofed animals. It is believed that Rhea is able to hunt for snakes and tamed, to protect them from human housing. But scientific proof of this.
Though these birds are excellent swimmers, love to frolic in the water and catch some fish, they can live without water for drinking for a long time. Like other birds, ostriches periodically swallow gastroliths and small rocks to help them digest food.
Reproduction and lifespan ostrich Nandu
In the mating season, RHEAS are polygamous. The pack is divided into groups of one male and 4-7 females and is sent in its own «secluded» place. The egg of ostrich Rhea is about four dozens of chicken, and the shell is so durable that it is used for various crafts that sell to tourists as Souvenirs. According to the records of European explorers, native American tribes, the shells of these eggs were used as dishes.
Females lay eggs in a communal nest, in General, the masonry turns from 10 to 35 eggs, and incubates them, the male. Incubation lasts on average a couple of months, all the while ostrich Rhea eats whatever he brings his girlfriend.
When the Chicks hatch, cares for them, feeds and walks. However, most babies do not survive up to a year due to various reasons, not the least of which is hunting.
Though the hunt for Nandu in most of the countries in which they live and forbidden, but the poachers, these bans do not stop. Sexual maturity in females occurs in 2.5-3 years, and males at 3.5-4. The birds live on average from 35 to 45 years of age, under favorable conditions, in contrast to its African relatives, living to 70.
Interesting facts about ostrich Rhea
Speaking of the ostrich, RHEAS, not to mention the origin of this interesting name of this bird. During mating season these birds are exchanged shouts that clearly sounds the sound of «Rhea», which was their first nickname, and then the official name.
Today, science knows two kinds of these remarkable birds:
Rhea common, or Northern, the scientific name Rhea americana;
small Rhea or Darwin, the scientific name Rhea pennata.
According to Zoological classifications, RHEAS, and cassowaries, EMUs and ostriches are not. These birds were allocated in separate group – nadworny in 1884, and in 1849 it was determined a family of Rhea, restricted to the two species of South American ostriches.
The oldest unearthed fossils resembling modern Rhea, 68 million years, that is, there is every reason to believe that such a bird lived on earth in the Paleocene period saw dinosaurs.