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South American bird 'nests' at English golf course

updated 9:43 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A rhea like this one pictured is on the run near a golf course in County Hertfordshire, England. A rhea like this one pictured is on the run near a golf course in County Hertfordshire, England.
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Rhea nests on golf course
Rhea nests on golf course
Rhea nests on golf course
Rhea nests on golf course
Rhea nests on golf course
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A large flightless bird has escaped from the town of Pelham, England
  • Attempts to track it down have led to a golf course five miles away
  • Members have spotted four-foot-tall creature dashing across greens and fairways

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(CNN) -- It's a sport made up of birdies and eagles, so perhaps it's no surprise that a large South American flightless bird has found a home away from home at a rural English golf club.

The rhea -- similar in appearance to an ostrich -- disappeared from a pen at its owner's home five weeks ago in the town of Brent Pelham in Hertfordshire.

Attempts to track it down are focused on the area surrounding Barkway Park Golf Club near the town of Royston, roughly five miles away.

With its top speed approaching 40 miles per hour, catching the four-foot-tall rhea, which has been spotted dashing along the greens and fairways, sounds like a task too far for even sprinter Usain Bolt.

But local golfers and staff at Barkway aren't too concerned.

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Many have welcomed media who have descended on the club and taken to snapping pictures of the rhea when it appears from the miles of fields surrounding the 18-hole course.

"We've had everybody and his brother down here," said one senior member who asked not to be named for fear of being bombarded with media requests.

"The greenkeepers have had little videos on (their) phones and they've sold them.

"Obviously it's a bird that's escaped and it's all over the place. It's not in one particular place."

Animal welfare charity the RSPCA has been reportedly warning members of the public about approaching the rhea, stating that the birds have extremely sharp claws and the potential to be dangerous if they feel threatened.

But not all are convinced of the danger.

"The papers have made it a man-killer, it's ridiculous what they are saying," said the Barkway member, referring to alarmist stories that have appeared in print and on television segments.

"It's not dangerous in any way, shape or form. They (media) have made all that up. If you get within about 20 or 30 yards of it, it just runs away. If you cornered it in some way it might turn on you but that happens with anything."

Dangerous or not, what plans are in place to catch the runaway bird?

"They can't capture it, they don't even know how," the Barkway member said.

Unless, that is, the birds and the bees play a helping hand.

"It's a female, as it happens, but the only way you're going to catch is if you've got a male," the golfer said.

"When it comes into the mating season and the male starts doing whatever it does, then you'll (apparently) be alright."

See also: Hornets attack golfer

Read: This eagle is king of the birdies

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