Greater Rhea Rhea americana


Justification of Red List Category
This species qualifies as Near Threatened as its population is believed to have declined at a rate approaching the threshold for classification as Vulnerable.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but this species is described as 'uncommon to fairly common' (Stotz et al. 1996).

Trend justification
A moderately rapid and on-going population decline is suspected, owing to hunting for the species's skin and meat as well as the destruction and fragmentation of its habitat.

Distribution and population

Rhea americana has a large range in north-east and south-east Brazil, east Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and north-east and east Argentina south to 40°S (Folch 1992). It has declined markedly and the healthiest populations are now believed to be in parts of the Chaco region (Folch 1992).


It typically occurs in pampas, campo cerrado and open chaco woodland, normally in areas with some tall grassland and other vegetation, but also in open grassland and cultivated fields, at elevations up to 1,200 m (Canevari et al. 1991, Folch 1992, Sick 1993, Parker et al. 1996). Population densities in grassland are several times that in agricultural areas, and birds were found to occupy 51% of a grassland area, but less than 5% of an agricultural locality (Giordano et al. 2008).  For breeding, it prefers areas adjacent to rivers, lakes and marshes (Folch 1992).


Its status is obfuscated by the presence of feral birds (Lowen et al. 1996), but it has declined markedly partly owing to hunting for meat and the colossal export of skins. Over 50,000 skins were traded in 1980, most apparently originating in Paraguay, with Japan and USA leading consumers (Folch 1992). In recent years, the large-scale conversion of central South American grasslands for agriculture and cattle-ranching (da Silva 1995) has considerably reduced and fragmented its available habitat, particularly in the pampas and cerrado strongholds.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor levels of illegal domestic and international trade. Effectively enforce restrictions on hunting and trade (Bellis et al. 2004). Include pastures and grasslands in agricultural ecosystems (Bellis et al. 2004). Preserve remaining natural habitat (Bellis et al. 2008, Giordano et al. 2010).


Text account compilers
Symes, A., Benstead, P., Capper, D., Symes, A., Sharpe, C J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Rhea americana. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/12/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/12/2020.