Darwin's Rhea

Darwin rhea ( Rhea pennata )

The Darwin - rhea ( Rhea darwinii ( Syn: Pterocnemia Pennata ) ) is a flightless bird from the genus of rheas ( Rhea ). He is the smaller, less frequent and less well-known of the two species.


Charles Darwin learned in the course of the journey with the HMS Beagle by gauchos in Patagonia of the existence of a running bird, which is called by the local inhabitants " Avestruz petise ". In Port Desire, today Puerto Deseado, shot and cooked the team to Darwin a copy of the bird, which he had not identified as this Nandu. Darwin was later the report of the Gauchos a rescued some parts of the cooked bird and sent them to the ornithologist John Gould. Gould held the ratite for an unknown type and named it after its discoverer Rhea darwinii to German Darwin Nandu. Some time later it turned out that the naturalist Alcide d' Orbigny Dessalines had already described the ratite 1834, so that the scientific name of the initial determination Pterocnemia Pennata was preferred. In 2008, the South American Check -list Committee ( SACC ) of the American Ornithologists ' Union and the Darwin Nandu again in the genus Rhea.


The Darwin Nandu has a gray or gray - brown plumage and is about 90 cm back height of the male is smaller than the Great Rhea ( Rhea americana). Its weight is about 15 to 25 kg. From the Grand Nandu the Darwin Nandu is distinguished by the white mottling of the back plumage. This is the cock more pronounced than in the female, in young birds it is missing altogether.

Distribution and habitat

There are two geographically separated from each other distribution areas: the greater includes the south of Argentina and Chile, so the landscape of Patagonia and the southern Andes. Another occurrence of the Darwin rheas there is further north on the border of Bolivia and Chile states, ie in the high Andes.

Although the distribution area of the Darwin rheas overlaps with that of the Great rheas, prefer both types usually have different habitats. The Darwin Nandu tolerated shrub and bush country where the large species does not occur. He also lives on the high plains of the Andes at altitudes of 3500-4500 m. In Patagonia, he happens to into the cold - temperate zones at the southern tip. Also on Tierra del Fuego it occurs, however, was introduced by the people here in 1936.

Way of life

In many ways, the Darwin Nandu differs little from the large Nandu. The way of life of both species is therefore described in detail in the article rheas. In adjustment to shrub -lined habitats of Darwin Nandu runs horizontally prestretched neck and folded wings, not to be obstructed by the vegetation.


In addition to the nominate form ( Rhea pennata pennata ) there is geographically separated from the two other subspecies in the central Andes of border regions of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile:

  • Rhea pennata tarapacensis
  • Rhea pennata garleppi

These two subspecies form some experts believe that a separate species ( Rhea tarapacensis ). They are more gray in color than brown and have a less pronounced scales on the legs than the nominate form.