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National Zoo bird celebrates Father's Day with a new brood | by Smithsonian's National Zoo
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National Zoo bird celebrates Father's Day with a new brood

Like most things, raising children is easier the second time around. Things are no different for the National Zoo’s adult male rhea, who for the second year in a row is celebrating Father’s Day with a brood of his own. Rhea chicks are raised by their fathers, who incubate their eggs and rear the chicks once they are hatched.


These chicks, which hatched on May 8, are reaping the benefits of Dad’s experiences from last year, when he was a first-time father to a flock of four. As before, he still keeps them close; as seen, rhea chicks sleep nestled in their father’s feathers on his back. However, this year he is also more relaxed, making it easier for keepers to care for and examine the chicks. The babies enjoy wandering, but Dad watches out for their safety, guarding them from any potential threat, including humans and even female rheas. When his chicks meander too far away, a rapid clacking of his bill will bring them all running. Despite the babies’ penchant for eating everything in sight—including rocks—this father is raising a healthy brood of lively chicks.


This year’s hatch is the second flock of rhea chicks born at the Zoo in thirty years. Rheas are large, flightless birds native to South America and are part of the ratite family, which also includes the ostrich, emu, kiwi, and cassowary.


Photo Credit: Mehgan Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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Taken on May 19, 2009