Family Rheas (Rheidae)

Near Threatened

Greater Rhea (Rhea americana)


French: Nandou d’Amérique German: Nandu Spanish: Ñandú común
Other common names: Common Rhea

Struthio americanus


, 1758,

Sergipe and Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil


Other rheas were previously separated in genus Pterocnemia, on basis mainly of tarsal scutellation and feathered upper tarsus, but genetic studies show them to be closely related to present species, and probably more aptly considered congeneric#R#R; present species has hybridized with R. pennata in captivity. Several races poorly known, and listed ranges remain provisional; birds of E Bolivia and Mato Grosso do Sul (WC Brazil), currently listed for race araneipes, may instead be referable to albescens. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. a. araneipes#R Brodkorb, 1938 – WC Brazil (Rondônia S to Mato Grosso do Sul) and NE & E Bolivia S to Chaco zone of Paraguay.
  • R. a. albescens#R Lynch Arribálzaga & Holmberg, 1878 – N & E Argentina (below c. 2000 m, S to Río Negro).
  • R. a. nobilis#R Brodkorb, 1939 – E Paraguay (E of R Paraguay).
  • R. a. americana#R (Linnaeus, 1758) – E Brazil from Maranhão and Rio Grande do Norte S to São Paulo and N Paraná.
  • R. a. intermedia#R Rothschild & C. Chubb, 1914 – extreme SE Brazil (S Paraná S to Rio Grande do Sul) and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    127–140 cm; 20–25+ kg. Overall colour is variable grey brown; thighs feathered, but tarsi totally bare; albinistic birds are not uncommon. Male nominate race... read more


    Deep, low, far-carrying booming or grunting “bu-up”, mainly by male during breeding,... read more


    Typically found in pampas, campos, cerrado and open chaco... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous. Mostly plant matter, including leaves (even of Cirsium thistles), seeds, roots and fruits; also takes insects,... read more


    Season Jul–Jan, depending on region. Males simultaneously polygynous, females serially polyandrous; in Mato Grosso (S Brazil),... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. CITES II. Uncommon to locally fairly common. Has declined markedly, this due partly to hunting for meat, partly... read more

    Recommended citation

    Folch, A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Boesman, P. (2020). Greater Rhea (Rhea americana). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 3 April 2020).