The Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia. They are the second largest extant bird in the word, with only the ostrich being larger. Emus are brown in color and can stand up to six and a half feet tall, weighing anywhere from 40 to 120lbs. Although they do have small wings emus are not capable of flight. Rather, they flap their wings when running to stabilize their bodies at the 30mph+ speeds they can attain.
Wild Emus only exist in Australia, where they are quite common in wooded areas or locations with reliable water sources. They tend to avoid populated areas but are nonetheless very curious animals. Emus have been known to approach or follow humans in wooded areas, and even poke at animals to get a reaction. Their incredible eyesight allows them to see predators from a great distance and they are usually only prone to being preyed upon by raptors. The emu’s only true weapon other than speed is a knifelike nail on its toes; however, this is only effective against ground-based predators.
Emus are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. Their diet includes a large variety of plants, grains and insects, all depending on habitat or seasonal availability. Emus also eat a lot of rocks. They do this because pebbles and stones help them digest plant material. An emu will usually have over a pound of pebbles in its stomach at any one time. Emus can go several days without water, and weeks without food, but will indulge frequently in both if a reliable source is present.
Emus breed during the summer, but in a reversal of the roles of many animals emu females must compete for a mate. Once the male has chosen a mate, the two will breed frequently, with the female laying up to 20 eggs. It is the male’s job to incubate the eggs and after all have been laid the female will leave the nest to mate again. For the next eight weeks the male will cease from drinking or eating and commit all of his time to incubating the eggs, only standing up about 10 times per day to turn them. He will survive solely on stored body fat during this time. Once hatched, the chicks will continue to be cared for by their father until roughly 9 months of age. Emus live between 10 and 20 years in the wild.
- A single emu egg is as large as 12 chicken eggs.
- Because of their diet, emus are credited with spreading much of the biodiversity in Australia.
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology