Rhea are large flightless birds originating in the grasslands of South America and can live to up to 15 years in the wild. They like to eat plants, fruits, seeds, roots and insects. They've also been known to eat small reptiles and rodents! One of their favourite foods is agricultural crops which has turned the farmers against them, and they are hunted for their meat, their feathers - for items like feather dusters, and their skins which are used in the manufacture of leather. They are now classified as Near Threatened and are heading towards the Vulnerable status.
As you can probably guess from looking at them, they are related to Ostrich and Emu. As a comparison you can see the Ostrich in our Africa Paddock. Rhea males can grow up to 170cm (that's about 5ft 6!). In the wild they will also gather with other grazing animals.
The most famous of our flock of Rhea is called Zazu, who was hand-reared by former Curator Colin Northcott. He has now been successfully reintroduced to the flock, but remains one of the most friendly animals on site as he does like to come over and say hello!
Here's a video of Colin and CEO Benjamin Mee introducing Zazu!
Rhea don't tend to make much noise except at mating time, when they make a loud booming noise to try and attract a mate. You can hear this at the Zoo, and it sounds a bit like a car or motorbike speeding off! Male Rhea are polygamous, mating with up to 12 females! With Rhea it is the male that rears the chicks, and after mating he will build a nest for the female to lay her eggs in. She then goes off to potentially mate with other males, while the male incubates her eggs as well as the eggs of the other females he has mated with. Subordinate males sometimes also incubate the eggs while the male goes to find another harem and builds another nest. There can be up to 60 eggs in his nest, which will hatch within 36 hours of each other.