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Ratites-Ostrich, Rhea & Emu

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Published on May 30, 2007

Ratites-Ostrich, Rhea & Emu
Ratites are a group of birds named for their flat or "raft-like" sternum. Unlike most birds, their bones have no air cavities and their wings are vestigial in size, making flight impossible. Unable to fly, they have highly muscular legs and are well adapted to running.

Ostriches are the largest living birds, coming from the deserts and savannahs of Africa. Some males weigh as much as 155 kg and stand 244 cm. They are capable of running at speeds of 40 to 60 km/hr. Ostriches are primarily vegetarian, but can easily kill attacking predators with their powerful kicking ability. Females are a dusty, grey-brown in color, while males are black. They are polygamous, the senior hen sitting on the nest during the day, and the cock tending the nest during the night. Eggs are 15 cm long and 12 cm in diameter. The chicks are born precocial after incubating for 42 to 48 days. In frames 1:24 to 1:30, a male is doing its courtship dance.

Rheas live in flocks on the pampas and savannahs of South America, where they feed on vegetable matter or small creatures. Males get to the height of 170 cm. In spring, the cocks become very aggressive as they select and segregate their harems of 3 to 7 hens. The cock will incubate some 50 eggs by those in his harem. Incubation takes 40 days. In frames 2:40 to 2:47, a male rhea is attacking me.

Emus are the 2nd largest living bird, and reside throughout mainland Australia. They are relatively monogamous during breeding season and have an extended courtship coupled with more aggressive activities, but (as with rhea) the males solely incubate the eggs for a period of about 2 months.

Also a ratite, but not shown, are cassowary, which are similar to emu and are found in Northern Australia and New Guinea. They are normally solitary by nature and live in forests.

All photographs are the property of Dafttool & cannot be reproduced or used without the expressed authorization of Dafttool.

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