Emu Bird Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is one of the largest birds in the world—second only to ostrich. It is the largest flightless bird in Australia. Emus are able to reach the speed of 30 miles per hour in short bursts. It is thought to travel great distances in search of plants and insects. Emus are generally quite aggressive especially females during the breeding season.

Emu Bird Facts

Anatomy

  • Emus stand 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) high. Males reach a length of about 148.5 cm (58.5 in) while females averaging 156.8 cm (61.7 in).
  • Adult males average 18 and 60 kg (40 and 132 lb) in weight whereas females weigh up to 31.5 and 37 kg (69 and 82 lb).
  • Emus have 5.6 to 6.7 cm (2.2 to 2.6 in) long bill.
  • They are mainly recognized by the grey- brown shaggy plumage. Both males and females show similar appearances. Emus have got large eyes which are protected by multiple eyelids. These eyelids are likely to prevent the eyes from dust in windy areas.
  • Emus are outsized by the extinct giant moa. Giant moas once occupied just about every habitat in New Zealand.
  • Males are slightly smaller than females.
  • Emus are absolutely flightless but they do flap their wings while running. By doing so emus might want to achieve a balance between moving fast and straight.
  • Like ostriches they have quite long legs and neck. Emus can run as fast as 50 kilometers per hour (50 mph).
  • Their feet are same as that of cassowaries. Both birds have three toes facing forward.
  • Emus take a single stride of about 100 cm (3.3 ft) during a normal walk. However when they gallop they cover as much distance as 275 cm (9 ft).
emu bird facts
Emu Bird ©emubirds.tradeindia.com

Range & Habitat

  • Emus have occupied several major habitats in Australia. They make homes in a wide variety of habitats such as semideserts, forests, coastal dunes, pine woodland, heath, eucalypt forests, open spinifex, tussock grassland, arid inland plains, and open plains but they are absent from the northeastern Australia where the southern cassowary is found in large numbers.
  • Emu’s habitats also include savannah woodland and sclerophyll forests. The ideal habitat receives less than 600 mm of rainfall each year.
  • They prefer to live in open areas like alpine pasture. It is also thought to live on the uplands of the Great Dividing Range.
  • Emu bird travels north in summer and south in winter.

Behavior

  • Emus are diurnal birds. They spend many daylight hours on foraging, eating, resting, and bathing in hot summer days.
  • It is found in small groups even outside the breeding season. Sometimes they do form large herds.
  • They cover many a miles foraging food and water. Emus may damage standing crops on agricultural land. They have become real threat to the farmers.
  • Emus sleep at night but it is discontinuous. They will wake up after 1 – 2 minutes during night sleep. They go back to sleep after 15 – 20 minutes.
  • They will drink 0.2–0.4 gal (600–1,500 ml) of water in one sitting.
  • The home range is about 12 mi2 (30 km2).
  • Their calls can be heard from a distance of 0.6 mi (1 km).

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Emus are omnivorous birds as they rely on many fruits, plants, acacia, seeds, tender shoots, blossoms, insects, leaves, and grasses. In winter, they eat caterpillars which become the essential part of the emu’s diet.
  • They will also consume wheat crops. Emus do not drink frequently. Emus also eat some pebbles which are quite effective in digesting solid food.
  • Emus’ diet consists of beetles, ladybirds, crickets, cockroaches, millipedes, cotton-boll moth, Bogong, spiders, and ants.
emu bird facts
Emu Bird face closeup ©www.oaklandzoo.org

Reproductive Biology

  • The breeding occurs in December to January in summer. Emus pair for about 150 days. In winter they mate in April and June.
  • Males build nest which is typically lined with grass, leaves, bark, and sticks. The nests stand 7 cm (2.8 in) high. It measures 3 feet (90 cm) across. The nest is a shallow bowl of grass.
  • Females become much more aggressive than males during courtship behavior. They may chase down the intruder and kick it off.
  • The breeding interval is 2 years.
  • The clutch size consists of 5 – 15 eggs. These hard-shelled eggs are dark green in color with the thickness averaging 1 mm (0.04 in). Emu’s eggs weigh about 450 and 650 g (1.0 and 1.4 lb). It measures 13 cm × 9 cm (5.1 in × 3.5 in) in diameter.
  • Adults travel 950 miles each year.
  • Both parents attain maturity at 2 years age.
  • Male alone incubates the eggs that last about 8 weeks.
  • The newborn chicks stand 12 cm (5 in) tall and averages 0.5 kg (17.6 oz) in weight. Male emus guard the chicks for up to 18 months.
  • The average lifespan of emus is 6 – 10 years.
  • Predators of emus include giant lizard, dingoes, red foxes, monitor lizards, wedge-tailed eagles, and wolves.
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