Emu

   Dromaius novaehollandiae

Dromaius novaehollandiae

The Emu is only found in Australia and is its tallest native bird, reaching 1.6-1.9m when standing erect. It weighs 30-45kg. Adult Emus are covered with shaggy grey-brown feathers except for the neck and head, which are largely naked and bluish-black. The wings are greatly reduced, but the legs are long and powerful. Each foot has three forward-facing toes and no hind toe. It lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. The main habitats are sclerophyll forest and savanna woodland. These birds are rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas. Emus were once found in Tasmania but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of Emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct.

Breeding

Nesting takes place in winter, the male and female remaining together for about five months for courtship, nest building and egg-laying. The nest consists of a platform of grass on the ground. 5- 15 eggs are laid at intervals of 2-4 days. These are dark bluish-green when fresh, becoming lighter with exposure to the sun. The female dominates the male during pair formation but once incubation begins, the male becomes aggressive to other Emus, including his mate. The female wanders away and leaves the male to perform all the incubation. Sometimes she will find another mate and breed again. The male sits on the nest for 55 days without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest. During this time, eggs often roll out of the nest and are pulled back in by the male. Newly hatched chicks leave the nest at 2-7 days when they are able to feed themselves, staying close together and remaining with the male for four months. They finally leave at about six months. Emus are nearly fully grown at one year and may breed at 20 months.

Behaviour

They move within their range according to climatic conditions. If sufficient food and water are present, birds will reside in one area. Where these resources are more variable, Emus move as needed to find suitable conditions. They are known to move hundreds of kilometres, sometimes at rates of 15-25km per day. Adult Emus are not really sociable. Their calls consist of booming, drumming and grunting. Booming is created in an inflatable neck sac and can be heard up to 2km away.

Diet

Emus eat fruits, seeds, growing shoots of plants, insects, other small animals, and animal droppings.

Status

Secure.