June 18, 2009

Rhea has bird’s-eye view of fatherhood

One dad at the National Zoo in Washington -- a male rhea -- is learning that raising children gets easier as time goes on.

The zoo's adult male rhea will be celebrating his second straight Father's Day with a brood of his own, having incubated and raised his charges once they were hatched, the zoo said in a news release Thursday.

The four chicks, hatched May 8, are reaping the benefits of dad having a year of paternity under his wing. Zoo officials said he seemed unruffled about being a bedroom for the chicks.

And talk about listening to your parents! If the babies stray too far, a quick, loud bill-clacking brings them all running back to dad, the keepers said.

Rheas are large, flightless birds native to South America belonging to the family that includes the ostrich, emu, kiwi and cassowary.

This year's hatch is the second flock of rhea chicks born at the National Zoo in 30 years, zoo officials said.