native emu's scientic name is Dromaius novaehollandaiae, which means
"fast runner of New Holland". The emu is an extremely
fast funner who can't fly.
The emu was
a valuable source of food for the Aboriginal people and was also
used in ceremonies and medecine. It was not known to the whit eman
until 1697 when three toed tracks were first recorded near the coast
of Western Australia by Dutch explorers. It was initially thought
to be a type of bird that had been already documented and was titled
EMEU after the Portugese word Ema meaning crane or large bird.
found it to be a flightless bird which was widespread throughout
the Australian continent - in all areas and climates, except the
The is classised
into a group known as "Ratites" which are birds which
do not have the keel used to anchor the wing muscles of flighted
birds. This group also included the New Zealand Kiwi, the South
American Rhea, the Cassowary of Northern Australia and the African
Return to top
to 2 metres
grey/brown with a whitish puff around the neck.
face and part of the throat don't have feathers and the skin
is grey. It can be darker in the females.
feet are quite large with only three toes. Their feet, legs
and bill are dark brown to black in colour.
Emu chicks are
commonly known as stripeys due to their feather colour. Their feathers
are similar to the adult bird but are palers and more streaked until
they are around 4 months at which time they will darken.
Emus are omnivorous
which means that they eat a variety of plants and insects. When
they graze on large pastures, they mainly eat seeds, wild fruit,
flowers and the young green shoots of herbs and shrubs. They particularly
like grasshoppers and beetles. In some farminy areas they are a
menace as they attach crops of lupins and other crains. They also
damage the farmer's crops by trampling them down and also destroy
fencing. They mostly feed during in the day, but can be seen out
on moonlight nights.
As the emu can
be destructive for farming, in some areas of Australia there has
been a need to control them. This is done under the strict guidance
of environmental organisations - taking into consideration the preservation
of the bird as well as allowing the farmers to preserve their crops.
Return to top
Nearing the end of summer, emus begin matching off in pairs and
remaikn together for about 5 months.
The start of
the breeding season appears to be triggered by the day length and
temperature changes. The ratio of daylight hours to hours of darkness
and the cooler temperatures usually have a stimulating effect on
the complex natural mechanisms that cause the emu to come into production.
factors such as extreme temperature fluctuations and high rainfall
appear to have an effect on the number of eggs laid by the birds.
Most emus breed
and produce eggs in their second year - some may take untilo their
When the male
and female are preparing to mate, they will often strut around displaying
their neck feathers proudly as a sign that they are ready. The female
often makes a distsinctive drumming sound, whilst the male grunts
loudly and often.
The female begins
laying eggs usually around May, laying a clutch or nextg of 5 to
12 eggs weighingh approximately 1 kilogram. The breeding season
can continue until September or October.
Return to top
Once the last egg has been laid, the female emu moves away and
shows no more interest in the nest or the eggs.
The eggs are
then incubated by the male emu usually for about 56 days. During
this time the male stays on the nest and very rarily leaves it even
for food or water. He may lose up to 8kg or 20% of his body weight.
During this time he ensure that the eggs are the correct temperature,
that they are turned regularly, there is enough oxygen around the
eggs, they have the correct humidity and are in an infection frree
the eggs were fertilised in the first place and providing the male
emu does his work, at the end of the incubation period, most egs
should hatch normal healthy chicks.
Even once the
chick have hatched, he keeps them warm and protected under his feathers
at night. During the day he leads them around for up to 18 months
at which time they leave and find a mate of their own - and the