Choique (Ptemenemia pemiata) It is the Patagonia symbol. Source of inspiration for stories and legends, the rhea is so present in folklore as in all the paths in Patagonia. It is a large , herbivorous, flightless bird. They use their soft wings as stabilizers, and are fast runners. It is one of the two “American ostriches”, but unlike its African relative has three toes instead of two.
Females lay 8-10 eggs which are incubated by the male. He also assumes parental responsibility for the “charitos”, who follow him for most of the summer. In winter they form mixed groups of males, females and juveniles. The harem is composed of one male and one to fifteen females. This varies by region and is very much dependent on the availability of food. The male measures 1.50 meters and weigh up to 30 kilos; the female is smaller in height.
Leyend of the Mocovies Tribe and thesouthern cross:
The old chief recalled that his father had told him that Manic, the rhea, was the animal with the most beautiful feathers.
The chief sent for the best hunter in the tribe: Nemec, an agile and faithful youth. The boy looked his best weapons.
He has never seen a rhea - this mysterious bird was unknown in the hinterland. Nemec asked the elders of the tribe to give him advice. He was told that Manic was very fast and it was impossible to find him without his noticing. He had to find a footprint similar to a bird, but much larger, and that the key was to follow the South path. Grateful Nemec left with the honour and responsibility of such a goal.
They were heading south, and he followed them. Walking under the first light of the next day, he noticed something strange. He looked up and there it was. It was the rhea, with its long, slender legs, with its beautiful plumage shaken by the wind, trembling his little head supported by a long neck, and looking at who knows what... But what struck him most were his feathers and he knew why the chief wanted to have them.
Nemec remembered his duty. He crept. He almost threw the spear when the rhea escaped at full speed, leaving just an astonished hunter. The next day, Nemec followed the tracks and again found his target. But the rhea escaped again. The same thing happened again and again. Nemec began to doubt if he really would get to hunt it. Then he found it at sunset. There it was, and the opportunity could not be wasted.
Man and animal froze. Suddenly, Nemec ran with all his might. The rhea ran also. Nemec flexed his arm and released the weapon. And, according to Mocovi legend, Manic spread his wings and soared. And continued rising until he reach the sky, and in the dim light of dusk, was lost to view. Suddenly, in the same place where the rhea had disappeared, four stars emerged in a cross: one took the place of the head; two marked the tips of its wings and the last, the end of its legs.Nemec spent the night watching the sky and recalling images of the rhea he could never catch. The next day, he started back to his home. He arrived back at the tribe with empty hands but with a twinkle in his eye. That night, when everyone sat around the campfire, Nemec told of his strange adventure. Then, they saw the new stars that the sky was wearing, indicating forever the direction in which Manic had escaped: south.”