Darwin’s Rhea

I have long wanted to see Darwin’s Rheas (Pterocnemia pennata) on the Patagonian steppe, and my dream was realized when I visited fabulous Chilean Patagonia last February!  I took this photo north of Puntas Arenas.  Darwin had been seeking this species, also known as the Lesser Rhea, during his travels in southern South America during the voyage of HMS Beagle.  He found one in August 1833 in an unexpected manner: while dining on it…  As he described in the Voyage of the Beagle:

“I repeatedly heard the Gauchos talking of a very rare bird which they called Avestruz Petise. They described it as being less than the common ostrich (which is there abundant), but with a very close general resemblance. … When at Port Desire [Puerto Deseado, Argentina], in Patagonia (lat. 48°), Mr. Martens shot an ostrich; and I looked at it, forgetting at the moment, in the most unaccountable manner, the whole subject of the Petises [Rheas], and thought it was a two-third grown one of the common sort. The bird was cooked and eaten before my memory returned. Fortunately the head, neck, legs, wings, many of the larger feathers, and a large part of the skin, had been preserved. From these a very nearly perfect specimen has been put together, and is now exhibited in the museum of the Zoological Society.”