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Emu 

(Dromaius novaehollandiae)

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Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]

Scientific classification

Kingdom:Animalia

Phylum:Chordata

Class:Aves

Order:Casuariiformes

Family:Casuariidae

Genus:Dromaius

Species:

D. novaehollandiae

Binomial name

Dromaius novaehollandiae

(Latham, 1790)[3]

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The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius       

Emus are soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds with long necks and legs, and can reach up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in height. Emus can travel great distances, and when necessary can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph); they forage for a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without eating. They drink infrequently, but take in copious amounts of water when the opportunity arises.

Breeding takes place in May and June, and fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several clutches of eggs in one season. The male does the incubation; during this process he hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season. The emu is an important cultural icon of Australia, appearing on the coat of arms and various coins. The bird features prominently in Indigenous Australian mythology.

The emu is the second tallest bird in the world, only being exceeded in height by the ostrich; the largest individuals can reach up to 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) in height. Measured from the bill to the tail, emus range in length from 139 to 164 cm (55 to 65 in), with males averaging 148.5 cm (58.5 in) and females averaging 156.8 cm (61.7 in). Emus are the fourth or fifth heaviest living bird after the two species of ostrich and two larger species of cassowary, weighing slightly more on average than an emperor penguin. Adult emus weigh between 18 and 60 kg (40 and 132 lb), with an average of 31.5 and 37 kg (69 and 82 lb) in males and females, respectively. Females are usually slightly larger than males and are substantially wider across the rump.

Emus have three toes on each foot in a tridactyl arrangement, which is an adaptation for running and is seen in other birds, such as bustards and quails. The ostrich has two toes on each foot.

Although flightless, emus have vestigial wings, the wing chord measuring around 20 cm (8 in), and each wing having a small claw at the tip. Emus flap their wings when running, perhaps as a means of stabilizing themselves when moving fast. They have long necks and legs, and can run at speeds of 48 km/h (30 mph) due to their highly specialized pelvic limb musculature. Their feet have only three toes and a similarly reduced number of bones and associated foot muscles; emus are unique among birds in that their gastrocnemius muscles in the back of the lower legs have four bellies instead of the usual three. The pelvic limb muscles of emus contribute a similar proportion of the total body mass as do the flight muscles of flying birds. When walking, the emu takes strides of about 100 cm (3.3 ft), but at full gallop, a stride can be as long as 275 cm (9 ft). Its legs are devoid of feathers and underneath its feet are thick, cushioned pads. Like the cassowary, the emu has sharp claws on its toes which are its major defensive attribute, and are used in combat to inflict wounds on opponents by kicking. The toe and claw total 15 cm (6 in) in length. The bill is quite small, measuring 5.6 to 6.7 cm (2.2 to 2.6 in), and is soft, being adapted for grazing. Emus have good eyesight and hearing, which allows them to detect threats at some distance. Emus predominately travel in pairs, and while they can form large flocks, this is an atypical social behavior that arises from the common need to move towards a new food source. They are able to swim when necessary, although they rarely do so unless the area is flooded or they need to cross a river.

The vocalizations of emus mostly consist of various booming and grunting sounds. The booming is created by the inflatable throat pouch; the pitch can be regulated by the bird and depends on the size of the aperture. Most of the booming is done by females; it is part of the courtship ritual, is used to announce the holding of territory and is issued as a threat to rivals. A high-intensity boom is audible 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away, while a low, more resonant call, produced during the breeding season, may at first attract mates and peaks while the male is incubating the eggs. Most of the grunting is done by males. It is used principally during the breeding season in territorial defense, as a threat to other males, during courtship and while the female is laying. Both sexes sometimes boom or grunt during threat displays or on encountering strange objects.

On very hot days, emus pant to maintain their body temperature.In captivity, emus can live for upwards of ten years.

The emu has a prominent place in Australian Aboriginal mythology, including a creation myth of the Yuwaalaraay and other groups in New South Wales who say that the sun was made by throwing an emu's egg into the sky; the bird features in numerous aetiological stories told across a number of Aboriginal groups. One story from Western Australia holds that a man once annoyed a small bird, who responded by throwing a boomerang, severing the arms of the man and transforming him into a flightless emu. The Kurdaitcha man of Central Australia is said to wear sandals made of emu feathers to mask his footprints. Many Aboriginal language groups throughout Australia have a tradition that the dark dust lanes in the Milky Way represent a giant emu in the sky. Several of the Sydney rock engravings depict emus, and the birds are mimicked in Indigenous dances. Hunting emus, known as kari in the Kaurna language, features in the major Dreaming story of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide region about the ancestor hero Tjilbruke.

The emu is popularly but unofficially considered as a faunal emblem – the national bird of Australia. It appears as a shield bearer on the Coat of arms of Australia with the red kangaroo, and as a part of the Arms also appears on the Australian 50-cent coin. It has featured on numerous Australian postage stamps, including a pre-federation New South Wales 100th Anniversary issue from 1888, which featured a 2 pence blue emu stamp, a 36-cent stamp released in 1986, and a $1.35 stamp released in 1994. The hats of the Australian Light Horse are decorated with emu feather plumes.

 

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Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]

Scientific classification

Kingdom:Animalia

Phylum:Chordata

Class:Aves

Order:Struthioniformes

Family:Struthionidae

Genus:Struthio

Species:

S. camelus

Binomial name

Struthio camelus

Linnaeus, 1758[2]

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Large flightless birds of Africa who lay the largest eggs of any living land animal. With the ability to run at 70 km/h (43.5 mph), they are the fastest birds on land. It is farmed worldwide, particularly for its feathers as they are used as decoration and feather dusters. Its skin is also used for leather products.It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and can run for a long time at a speed of 55 km/h (34 mph) with short bursts up to about 70 km/h (43 mph), the fastest land speed of any bird. The common ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest eggs of any living bird (the extinct elephant birds of Madagascar and the giant moa of New Zealand laid larger eggs). The common ostrich's diet consists mainly of plant matter, though it also eats invertebrates. It lives in nomadic groups of 5 to 50 birds. When threatened, the ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground, or run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick of its powerful legs. Mating patterns differ by geographical region, but territorial males fight for a harem of two to seven females.Common ostriches usually weigh from 63 to 145 kilograms (139–320 lb), or as much as two adult humans. The Masai ostriches of East Africa (S. c. massaicus) averaged 115 kg (254 lb) in males and 100 kg (220 lb) in females, while the nominate subspecies, the North African ostrich (S. c. camelus), was found to average 111 kg (245 lb) in unsexed adults. Exceptional male ostriches (in the nominate subspecies) can weigh up to 156.8 kg (346 lb). At sexual maturity (two to four years), male common ostriches can be from 2.1 to 2.8 m (6 ft 11 in to 9 ft 2 in) in height, while female common ostriches range from 1.7 to 2.0 m (5 ft 7 in to 6 ft 7 in) tall. New chicks are fawn in color, with dark brown spots.[12] During the first year of life, chicks grow at about 25 cm (9.8 in) per month. At one year of age, common ostriches weigh approximately 45 kilograms (99 lb). Their lifespan is up to 40–45 years.their eyes are said to be the largest of any land vertebrate: 50 mm (2.0 in) in diameter; helping them to see predators at a great distance. The eyes are shaded from sunlight from above.

Their temperature control relies in part on behavioral thermoregulation. For example, they use their wings to cover the naked skin of the upper legs and flanks to conserve heat, or leave these areas bare to release heat. The wings also function as stabilizers to give better maneuverability when running. Tests have shown that the wings are actively involved in rapid braking, turning and zigzag maneuvers. They have 50–60 tail feathers, and their wings have 16 primary, four alular and 20–23 secondary feathers.

The common ostrich's sternum is flat, lacking the keel to which wing muscles attach in flying birds. The beak is flat and broad, with a rounded tip. Like all ratites, the ostrich has no crop, and it also lacks a gallbladder. They have three stomachs, and the cecum is 71 cm (28 in) long. Unlike all other living birds, the common ostrich secretes urine separately from feces. All other birds store the urine and feces combined in the coprodeum, but the ostrich stores the feces in the terminal rectum. They also have unique pubic bones that are fused to hold their gut. Unlike most birds, the males have a copulatory organ, which is retractable and 20 cm (8 in) long. Their palate differs from other ratites in that the sphenoid and palatal bones are unconnected. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in sand to avoid danger. This myth likely began with Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), who wrote that ostriches "imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed. This may have been a misunderstanding of their sticking their heads in the sand to swallow sand and pebbles to help digest their fibrous food, or, as National Geographic suggests, of the defensive behavior of lying low, so that they may appear from a distance to have their head buried. Another possible origin for the myth lies with the fact that ostriches keep their eggs in holes in the sand instead of nests, and must rotate them using their beaks during incubation; digging the hole, placing the eggs, and rotating them might each be mistaken for an attempt to bury their heads in the sand. They mainly feed on seeds, shrubs, grass, fruit and flowers; occasionally they also eat insects such as locusts. Lacking teeth, they swallow pebbles that act as gastroliths to grind food in the gizzard. When eating, they will fill their gullet with food, which is in turn passed down their esophagus in the form of a ball called a bolus. The bolus may be as much as 210 ml (7.1 US fl oz). After passing through the neck (there is no crop) the food enters the gizzard and is worked on by the aforementioned pebbles. The gizzard can hold as much as 1,300 g (46 oz), of which up to 45% may be sand and pebbles. Common ostriches can go without drinking for several days, using metabolic water and moisture in ingested plants, but they enjoy liquid water and frequently take baths where it is available. They can survive losing up to 25% of their body weight through dehydrationThe eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the males by night. This uses the coloration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night. The incubation period is 35 to 45 days, which is rather short compared to other ratites. This is believed to be the case due to the high rate of predation. Typically, the male defends the hatchlings and teaches them to feed, although males and females cooperate in rearing chicks. Fewer than 10% of nests survive the 9-week period of laying and incubation, and of the surviving chicks, only 15% of those survive to 1 year of age. However, among those common ostriches who survive to adulthood, the species is one of the longest-living bird species. Common ostriches in captivity have lived to 62 years and 7 months. Common ostriches have inspired cultures and civilizations for 5,000 years in Mesopotamia and Egypt. A statue of Arsinoe II of Egypt riding a common ostrich was found in a tomb in Egypt Hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari use ostrich eggshells as water containers, punching a hole in them. They also produce jewelry from it. The presence of such eggshells with engraved hatched symbols dating from the Howiesons Poort period of the Middle Stone Age at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa suggests common ostriches were an important part of human life as early as 60,000 BP.In some countries, people race each other on the backs of common ostriches. The practice is common in Africa and is relatively unusual elsewhere. The common ostriches are ridden in the same way as horses with special saddles, reins, and bits. However, they are harder to manage than horses.

 

Rhea

(Rhea americana)

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Near Threatened (IUCN 3.1)[1]

Scientific classification

Kingdom:Animalia

Phylum:Chordata

Class:Aves

Order:Rheiformes

Family:Rheidae

Genus:Rhea

Species:

R. americana

Binomial name

Rhea americana

(Linnaeus, 1758)[2]

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The rheas (/ˈriːə/) are large ratites (flightless birds without a keel on their sternum bone) in the order Rheiformes, native to South America, distantly related to the ostrich and emu. Rheas are large, flightless birds with grey-brown plumage, long legs and long necks, similar to an ostrich. Large males of R. americana can reach 170 cm (67 in) tall at the head, 100 cm (39 in) at the back and can weigh up to 40 kg (88 lb), Their wings are large for a flightless bird (250 cm (8.2 ft)) and are spread while running, to act like sails. Unlike most birds, rheas have only three toes. Their tarsus has 18 to 22 horizontal plates on the front of it. They also store urine separately in an expansion of the cloaca.[9]Rheas are from South America only and are limited within the continent to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. They are grassland birds and both species prefer open land. The greater rheas live in open grasslands, pampas, and chaco woodlands. They prefer to breed near water and prefer lowlands, seldom going above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft).Weighing 20–27 kilograms (44–60 lb), the greater rhea is the largest bird in South America. In the wild, the greater rhea has a life expectancy of 10.5 years.

The wings of the American rhea are rather long; the birds use them during running to maintain balance during tight turns, and also during courtship displays.

Greater rheas have a fluffy, tattered-looking plumage, that is gray or brown, with high individual variation, The head, neck, rump, and thighs are feathered. In general, males are darker than females. Even in the wild—particularly in Argentina—leucistic individuals (with white body plumage and blue eyes) as well as albinos occur. Hatchling greater rheas are grey with dark lengthwise stripes.

The rhea's diet mainly consists of broad-leaved foliage, particularly seed and fruit when in season, but also insects, scorpions, fish,[ small rodents, reptiles, and small birds. Favorite food plants include native and introduced species from all sorts of dicot families, such as Amaranthaceae, Asteraceae, BignoniaceaeBrassicaceae, FabaceaeLamiaceaeMyrtaceae or SolanaceaeMagnoliidae fruit, for example of Duguetia furfuracea (Annonaceae) or avocados (Persea americana, Lauraceae) can be seasonally important.

They do not usually eat cereal grains, or monocots in general. However, the leaves of particular grass species like Brachiaria brizantha can be eaten in large quantities, and Liliaceae (e.g. the sarsaparilla Smilax brasiliensis) have also been recorded as foodplants. Even tough and spiny vegetable matter like tubers or thistles is eaten with relish.

Like many birds which feed on tough plant matter, the greater rhea swallows pebbles which help grind down the food for easy digestion. It is much attracted to sparkling objects and sometimes accidentally swallows metallic or glossy objects. Rheas are also coprophagous and occasionally consume fresh fecal matter of other rheas.

Rheas tend to be silent birds, with the exception being when they are chicks or when the male is seeking a mate. During breeding season, the male will attempt to attract females by calling. This call is a loud booming noise. While calling like this, they will lift the front of their body, ruffle their plumage, all while keeping their neck stiff. They will then extend and raise their wings, and run short distances, alternating with their wings. He may then single out a female and walk alongside or in front of her with a lowered head and spread wings. If the female notices him, then he will wave his neck back and forth in a figure-eight. Finally, a female may offer herself and copulation will commence.

During the non-breeding season they may form flocks of between 20 and 25 birds, although the lesser rhea forms smaller flocks than this. When in danger they flee in a zig-zag course, using first one wing then the other, similar to a rudder. During breeding season the flocks break up.

Rheas are polygamous, with males courting between two and twelve females. After mating, the male builds a nest, in which each female lays her eggs in turn. The nest consists of a simple scrape in the ground, lined with grass and leaves. The male incubates from ten to sixty eggs. The male will use a decoy system and place some eggs outside the nest and sacrifice these to predators, so that they do not attempt to get inside the nest. The male may use another subordinate male to incubate his eggs, while he finds another harem to start a second nest. The chicks hatch within 36 hours of each other. The females, meanwhile, may move on and mate with other males. While caring for the young, the males will charge at any perceived threat that approach the chicks including female rheas and humans. The young reach full adult size in about six months but do not breed until they reach two years of age.

The natural predators of adult greater rheas are limited to the cougar (Puma concolor), which are found in most areas inhabited by greater rheas and are certain to be their leading predator, and the jaguar (Panthera onca), which are found with greater rheas and opportunistically hunt them in the Paraguayan chaco, central Bolivia and the Brazilian cerrado. Feral dogs are known to kill younger birds, and the crested caracara (Caracara plancus) is suspected to prey on hatchlings. Armadillos sometimes feed on greater rhea eggs; nests have been found which had been undermined by a six-banded armadillo (Euphractus sexcinctus) or a big hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus) and the rhea eggs were broken apart. Predation on young rheas has also been reportedly committed by greater grisons (Galictis vittata).

The numbers of both the greater and puna rhea are decreasing as their habitats are shrinking. Both are considered near threatened by the IUCN. The IUCN also states that they are both approaching vulnerable status. The lesser rhea is classified as least concern. 

Rheas have many uses in South America. Feathers are used for feather dusters, skins are used for cloaks or leather, and their meat is a staple to many people.

Gauchos traditionally hunt rheas on horseback, throwing bolas or boleadoras — a throwing device consisting of three balls joined by rope — at their legs, which immobilises the bird. The rhea is pictured on Argentina's 1 Centavo coin minted in 1987, and on the Uruguayan 5 peso coin.

 

Lenny

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