WASHINGTON – Break out the cigars. The Treasury ducklings are hatching.
The brown mallard duck, which became Washington's newest tourist attraction a block away from the White House (search), began hatching her ducklings Saturday afternoon.
For the curious tourists gathered around her enclosure, there wasn't a lot of activity to see because the hatching was occurring underneath her.
"The hen is sitting on the baby ducklings to incubate them because they are born wet and cold," Treasury Department spokesman Taylor Griffin (search) explained.
The Secret Service (search) uniformed division, which normally guards the president and other dignitaries, has been protecting the duck and her nest since she laid her eggs in early April, keeping the mother duck safe from throngs of tourists who stopped to snap pictures.
They installed metal guardrails around the nest, which just happened to be in a mulch pile around a tree at the main entrance to the Treasury Department, which is next door to the White House. They extended the protected area as the watching crowds grew in size.
The duck's image appeared in newspapers around the world and she was also featured on a number of national television news programs. Through it all, she stuck to her job of sitting on the eggs, seemingly oblivious to all the activity around her.
The duck, which was given various nicknames by Treasury employees from "Quacks Reform" to "T-Bill" and "Duck Cheney," even became involved in financial events when anti-globalization protesters here for the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank staged a demonstration across the street from her nest.
Speakers called on the financial institutions to forgive the debt of the world's poorest countries. One of their signs read, "Save the children, not just the duck."
Treasury officials said that after the duck and ducklings get a good night's rest, they will all be transported to one of the many urban parks in the Washington area and set free on Sunday.