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article imageGiant bird on the loose in the English countryside

By Anne Sewell     Apr 18, 2014 in Odd News
Stevenage - A retired geography teacher was out cycling in the English countryside and could hardly believe his eyes when he saw a huge bird, approximately the size of an ostrich, strolling in a rape field.
It happened near the village of Nuthampstead near Stevenage, Herts. on Thursday. The teacher, Ray Murdoch said: "In the distance I saw what appeared to be a large bird, and the closer I got the more perplexed I got."
"Initially, I thought it was a crane, but as I got closer, I realized it wasn't a crane, and I wondered if it was an emu."
"The bird was trotting along just a couple of meters off the road in the edge of a field, and as I got closer it kept looking over its shoulder at me."
It turns out the bird is a South American rhea, who apparently goes by the name "Chris" and has been running around loose for about a month. According to experts, the bird is around 6 ft in height and is capable of "disemboweling a human with its six-inch claws."
"I think the rhea was as amazed to see a cyclist as I was to see a rhea," Murdoch added.
Murdoch said that by the time he got his wits together and pulled out his phone to take a photo, the bird had moved about 50 to 60 yards further into the field.
He said: "You can see the bird standing in a couple of the shots, in the others it was grubbing around in the rape field for food, or perhaps it was trying to bury its head in the sand. It was about six feet high with its head up."
The rhea has also been spotted on a local golf course and according to the Daily Mail, the "birdie" gags were really getting out of hand in the pub that evening.
The enormous bird belongs to Jo Clarke who apparently keeps four rheas on her land at Brent Pelham to keep down the weeds. She said that the escapee had been spooked by a local hunt. According to Clarke, she has no idea how one could recapture the bird as they can run at up to 40 kilometers an hour.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the RSPCA is warning anyone who spots the errant rhea to contact them immediately and warned people to stay away to avoid injury.
He said: "They look nice but they are so strong it's unbelievable. They aren't listed as a dangerous animal but can kill you with one strike of their feet because their claws are six inches long. They will also go for your eyes with their beak."
David Goodyear, from Animal Search UK speaks about the challenge of catching such a bird in the video above.
"At 40 miles an hour, anyone would struggle to keep up with that, the fact that it is quite a dangerous animal is obviously a concern and something we have to take into consideration."
Apparently the Common Rhea is often called the South American ostrich and can grow to six feet in height and weigh up to four stone. Reportedly they normally live in regions where it is hot in summer and very cold in winter, making Britain an ideal location for them. They apparently eat insects, grasses, shoots and leaves. Reportedly male rheas can bite or knock out a person with one blow. However, the female of the species is unlikely to attack.
An amateur video of the bird is available here.
More about United Kingdom, South American rhea, Escape, Stevenage, nuthampstead
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