Ratites are a diverse group of flightless and mostly large and long-legged birds including African ostriches and emus, cassowaries, and kiwis, all of the South Pacific and greater and lesser rheas of South America.
All ratites lack a keel, or an extension of the breastbone where flight muscles attach, making these flightless birds. Flight is a predator avoidance tool, which the ostrich and other ratites do not have, instead most of them have developed size as a defence mechanism.
Whilst many dads within the bird world play an active role in finding food for their chicks, the males of most ratites species are solely responsible for the care of the chicks and incubating the eggs, the exception being the female ostriches and kiwis are also involved in raising the young.
The ostrich is the largest living bird and an excellent parent. After a female lays her eggs, the parents take turn incubating them: the female during the day, and the male at night. Zoologists believe that the male gets the night shift because, with his darker coloring, he will be less visible to predators and therefore be able to protect the nest better than the female. Each male has a primary female who takes turns incubating eggs with him, even though other females will lay eggs, potentially from different males, in the same nest. Whilst this is not desired from an evolutionary perspective, having many eggs in a nest is in fact advantageous because a predator is not likely to be able to steal all of them, and therefore this increases the probability of eggs fertilised by the male are hatched.
Once the eggs hatch however, the male’s job has only just begun. He will fervently defend the hatchlings from predators, as well as teach them to feed.
The Rhea is another of the large flightless ratite birds, and another super-dad, but in this case they require no need for any help from mom at all. The male rhea lives in a family group with up to a dozen females, builds nests for his mates to lay their eggs in, and then he incubates sometimes over 50 eggs for up to 40 days. He will then chase anything, including females, away from the hatched chicks and raise them completely on his own.
The Emu is our third super-dad, and he makes for an impressive figure at some 6.5 feet high (2 meters) and weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kilograms). He will incubate a females eggs for about 60 days, and once hatched he will be the sole carer for the chicks for up to two years.
These are examples of truly magnificent parents