Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)  


Class: Aves
Order: Casuariiformes
Family:    Dromaiidae
Size:    Height: 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 meters)
Weight: 100 to 122 pounds (45 to 55 kg)
Diet: Fruit, seeds, flowers, insects and small animals
Distribution: Australia
Young:  5 to 20 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Unknown
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: 5 to 10 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity



·     The emu appears on Australia’s coat of arms.

·     The name emu comes from the male’s call, which sounds like “e-moo.”

·     When food is abundant, emus store fat, which keeps them going through lean times.

·     Emus are related to the kiwi, ostrich, rhea and cassowary—all of which are flightless birds called  “ratites.”



Emus are large birds, second in size only to the ostrich. Although their wings are too small to enable them to fly, they are very fast runners and are also capable swimmers. Their brown feathers are shaggy—almost fur-like in appearance.  Emus have long, scaly legs, a long neck and three toes on each of their strong, heavy feet.  Although emus can not fly because of their short wings, they are able to run up to 30 miles (48 km) per hour because of their long legs. Females are slightly larger than males.



Emus are found in open-country habitats such as grasslands or open woodlands throughout Australia. Although farmers in the west consider them a nuisance, eastern farmers welcome their appearance, as young emus especially eat large quantities of caterpillars and grasshoppers, while adults eat burrs that would otherwise become entangled in sheep wool.  


Feeding Habits

Emus mainly eat fruit, seeds and flowers, but also insects and small animals. They sometimes eat pebbles and charcoal to help their food digest. Emus need to drink water on a daily basis, and they often walk great distances in order to find their food. After a rainfall, food is more abundant, so emus usually follow the rain.



Mating season lasts from December to January. A male and female form a close bond for the next few months and in April, just before the female lays her eggs, the male builds a wide, shallow nest of grass and leaves on the ground. The male then sits on the eggs for the next two months, during which time he does not eat or drink. The female may stay to defend the male and the nest, but most females are driven away by the males after the chicks hatch, if she has not left on her own by then. Sometimes in captivity, females remain with the males even after the chicks hatch. The chicks are over one foot tall (30 cm) at birth and have brown and white stripes. The male is fiercely protective of his chicks and keeps them from harm as he teaches them to fend for themselves for the next five to seven months. Some males even adopt lost chicks from other broods, taking care of them along with their own offspring. By December of that year, the juveniles are old enough to go off on their own, and the male finds another mate at that time. The youngsters are fully mature by two years and begin families of their own.  



Emus are peaceful, timid animals and they travel in flocks, except during mating season, when they pair off and settle down while incubating their eggs. Full-grown agitated emus can kick hard enough to knock a man down, but they only lash out when threatened or cornered.



Although emus are widespread and are not a conservation concern at this time, two subspecies became extinct in the early 1800s—both the King Island emu and the Kangaroo Island emu disappeared due to excessive hunting by settlers.








Harrison, C. and Greensmith, A. (1993). Birds of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited