Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Rhea Dies at the Bird House

A male rhea named Carlos died at the Zoo’s Bird House the night of March 23, 2014. He was at least 15 years old—he wasn’t born at the Zoo and we don’t know exactly when he hatched. In the wild, rheas live to about 15 years old, though in human care they often live longer. Carlos succumbed to heart failure along with chronic renal disease and amyloidosis, which is a disease that causes a build-up of insoluble protein in various organs.

Carlos was beloved by Zoo visitors and volunteers. You may specifically remember him from Father’s Day posts. In rheas, the fathers rear the chicks, and he was especially good at raising chicks. Visitors got to watch him raising six different clutches of chicks, many of which went on to live at other zoos. He gave our scientists and keepers an unparalleled look at rhea breeding, which has not been well-studied in zoos.

Carlos’s son—a one-and-a-half year old male—will move into the enclosure with our two females, which will give them all a normal social setting. But since one of the females is Carlos’s mother, they will not breed. Eventually one of Carlos’s sisters will join the group.  Animal care staff plan to expand the flock with unrelated individuals after the Bird House is renovated.