Animals & Attractions

Our Darwin’s rhea arrived at the zoo in October 2011 from France.

Location in the zoo

They can be seen in the enclosure next to the monkey walk-through.

Breeding Programme Category

Our rhea is part of the European Stud Book (EBS) programme.

Breeding Success

Darwin’s rheas are difficult to breed in captivity and our keepers are working closely with colleagues in other zoos to increase husbandry knowledge for the species.

In 2014 the hard work paid off and our Darwin’s rhea produced nine chicks. They were successfully hand reared by keepers and moved onto other collections as part of the breeding programme.

Again, in May 2015 our rhea successfully incubated and hatched five chicks, and in May 2017 we welcomed three chicks, all which have since moved on to other collections.

In The Wild

Darwin’s rheas (Rhea pennata pennata) are mostly found in the open grasslands of Patagonia and the Andean plateaus of South America. They inhabit steppes, shrubland, shrub-steppe and mallines (successional wetlands with bog, meadows and ponds) throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.

Darwin’s rheas are ratites, which are a group of flightless birds that includes the African ostrich, the Australian emu, cassowaries, and kiwis.

Darwin’s rheas have brown and white spotted plumage and stand about 90 – 100 cm (35 – 39 inches) tall. Their wings are larger than those of some other ratites. Darwin’s rheas use their wings to balance themselves when they are running, sometimes reaching speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph)!

Outside of the breeding season, when the males become quite aggressive, this species is quite sociable, living in groups of 5 – 30 birds.

Some of the major threats to this species include hunting, egg-collecting and persecution by human populations, as well as habitat destruction due to farming and conversion of land for cattle grazing, as a result of this their numbers have declined rapidly in the wild.

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