Several rhea birds that have been running around a housing estate will be sent to an animal reserve when captured, police said.

The “unusual sight” has been spotted at Maple Cross, close to the M25, Hertfordshire Police said.

The force was working with Three Rivers District Council and highways teams to “come up with a plan”.

Police said they had tried to identify owners, but concluded the flightless birds were effectively wild.

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The birds have been compared to Road Runner, from the Looney Tunes carton, on social media.

image copyrightSian Janusz
image captionSian Janusz spotted one of the rhea and said “I don’t want him to get hit by a car”

PC Christian Gottmann, from the Rickmansworth and District Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “These birds are certainly an unusual sight on the streets of Three Rivers, and we want to reassure the public that we are working in partnership with Three Rivers District Council, Highways and our Rural Operational Support Team to come up with a plan to capture and rehome the birds to a suitable animal reserve.

“Inquiries are ongoing, but if you think you may be able to help with this, please get in touch with us.”

He advised the public not to approach the “fast” animals as they were “aggressive if cornered”.

“Unfortunately we have received reports of them attacking dogs and deer, so we ask that dog owners are vigilant when out walking,” he added.

image captionPrivate owners do not need a licence to keep rhea in the UK

Greater rhea

  • originates from South America, and is the continent’s largest bird
  • can run at speeds of up to 50mph (80km/h)
  • reaches 5ft (1.5m) in height and can weigh about 50lb (20kg)
  • during breeding season, females lay an egg every other day for a week to 10 days
  • females share their ground nests, which can contain up to 50 eggs

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