Close up head shot of a greater rhea living at Woburn Safari Park

Greater Rhea


The greater rhea is the largest bird on the American continent. It is part of the ‘ratite’ family, a group of birds which ostrich, emu, kiwi and cassowary are also a part of. They are a flightless bird, with strong powerful legs, allowing them to run up to 35mph.

All about us

Distribution: Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina
Habitat: Tall grassland, open woodland, wooded savannah and occasionally crop fields
Height: 129 - 1 50cm tall
Weight: 20 - 40kg
Lifespan: In the wild 10 -15 years, in captivity up to 30 years
Threats: Hunting for eggs, meat, feathers and skins

About us

Scientific name: Rhea americana

The rhea is the largest bird in the Americas. They are unmistakable due to their large size, long legs, and lack of ability to fly. They are superficially very similar to the ostrich, which led Charles Darwin to first describe them as a ‘South American ostrich’, although they are not thought to be directly related.

The body is greyish in colour, with dark bands around the neck and upper back. There are whitish feathers on the wings, under body, and thighs. The dark ring around the bottom of the neck will darken during the breeding season in males.

The rhea lacks the keel bone which is found in most birds, this is the bone which the flight muscles are usually attached to, but as these are flightless birds they lack it completely. The wings of the rhea are large for a terrestrial bird, however they will use them to help balance and steer them when running. T

Greater Rhea facts

A small group of escaped birds survived and bred to form a wild group of over 100 birds in Germany!
Rhea will swallow pebbles to help them digest their food!
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