Rhea chicks are raised by their fathers, who incubate their eggs and rear the chicks once they are hatched, the zoo said in a caption accompanying these pictures. 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.
The chicks in these pictures hatched on May 8, and “are reaping the benefits of Dad’s experiences from last year, when he was a first-time father to a flock of four,” the zoo added.
Six weeks after they hatched, the rhea chicks continue to sleep nestled in their father’s feathers on his back.
The father rhea is more relaxed with this second brood, according to the zoo, 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.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo photos by Mehgan Murphy