The Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is a large flightless Australian bird. It is a ratite. Ratites include the ostrich, kiwi, and cassowary.
The Emu has a large soft, shaggy, grey-brown-feathered body, a long almost featherless pale-blue neck, and long featherless legs with three-toed feet that have sharp claws and thick, cushioned pads. Its brown feathers have black tips. It has a soft short grey beak and grey legs. It has orange-brown eyes.
It is the second largest bird in the world, second to the ostrich. It measures 190 centimetres (75 inches) tall. Its toe and claw measure 15 centimetres (6 inches) long.
The Emu can run fast, at 50 kilometres per hour (30 miles per hour). At full gallop, its strides are 275 centimetres (108 inches) long. Its feet are powerful, with a strong kick. It can swim, but rarely does.
The Emu is a grazer, feeding on grass. It can travel for long distances looking for food. It eats small stones to help it digest grass. It can go for weeks without water. When water is available, it will drink a lot in one session.
It is diurnal, active during the day. When it sleeps, it sits on the ground and looks like a small mound of dirt.
The Emu is widespread across dry inland Australia in savannah woodlands, but also along some coastal areas.
It is often found in pairs, but will also form large flocks. Males make the nest in a hollow on the ground, with bark, leaves, sticks and grass. Females lay 5-15 very large thick-shelled dark-green eggs. Males sit on the eggs, turning them frequently, and doesn’t leave the nest to eat. The eggs hatch after about 56 days. Males look after the chicks for about 6 months.
The chicks are precocial, born with soft down feathers. They develop brown and cream stripes for the first three months. The chicks are active and can leave the nest within a few days.
Emus can live for about 10 years.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM