top of page
  • Sara Thompson

Big-bird Dads Are the Rhea Deal

rhea bird with chicks
Rhea with chicks; Photo by Mariana Ruiz Villarreal

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

Rheas are large, flightless birds found in South America. The largest bird in South America, they stand between 3-5 feet tall, with males being larger than females. They are related to ostriches and emus, and look very similar, but do not have tail feathers. Their plumage is primarily on their head, neck, and bodies. Plumage is generally brown or gray, with white on the underside. They have longer wings than most flightless birds, which they use for balance and changing direction when running. They also flap their wings to ward off predators.

During breeding season a male will try to attract several females and can mate with anywhere from two to twelve individuals. A male rhea builds a single nest by scraping the ground to make a depression and lining it with leaves and grasses. All the females a male has mated with will lay their eggs in the single nest and leave the incubating to the male. A female rhea can lay up to five eggs each in the nest. Depending on the number of females, a male rhea’s nest can contain up to 60 eggs! After all the eggs have been laid in the nest, the male will incubate the eggs for about six weeks until the eggs hatch. The rhea hatchlings will all hatch within 36 hours of each other no matter what order they were laid in. After hatching the male will care for and protect the hatchlings until they reach their adult size at around 6 months old. Young rheas will primarily eat insects. As they grow their diets will become more diverse and include things such as leafy plants, fruit, seeds, larger insects, and even small lizards.

In nature it is much more common for males to not be involved in the rearing of young. Rheas are one of the few who are almost exclusively raised by the fathers. While rheas are still small the fathers will protect and attack any potential threat, even female rheas.

Explorit's coming events:

• Explorit’s Summer Science Camp is back for 2021! Beginning in June and running through to mid-August, our camps are filled with fun, hands-on science activities. Summer camp runs from 8:00-11:15am Monday-Friday. Fee for summer camp is $175 for Members/$200 for Non-Members. Limited spaces available for camps designed for grades K-3 and 4-6. Visit for more information and registration.

• We will remain closed to the public through the summer. We are planning on opening a new exhibit with cleaning and safety protocols in place for fall of 2021.

• Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income and sustainability. Now is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow:

• Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member. An Exploit Membership not only support us but grants the recipient with free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, summer and after-school camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. For more information visit or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.


bottom of page