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Abstract

We studied the effect of sex and group size on the proportion of time a greater rhea, Rhea americana, allocates to vigilance and feeding during the breeding and the non-breeding seasons. We analysed 175 records of focal animals that were feeding alone or in groups of 2 to 26 birds. In both seasons, males spent more time in vigilance and less time in feeding than females. Both sexes spent more time in vigilance and less time in feeding during the breeding season. Sexual and seasonal differences in vigilance were the result of different mechanisms. Males had shorter feeding bouts than females but there were no sexual differences in the length of the vigilance bouts. On the contrary, seasonal differences were the result of males and females having longer vigilance bouts during the breeding season but there were no seasonal differences in the length of the feeding bouts. During the non-breeding season, individual vigilance was higher in rheas foraging alone than in groups. In this case, solitary birds had longer vigilance and shorter feeding bouts than birds foraging in groups. We discuss the possible effect of intragroup competition and food availability on the allocation of time between feeding and vigilance in this species.