Emu

     The Emu is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the Ostrich. It is Australia’s tallest native bird, reaching between 1.6 m and 1.9 m when standing erect. They live in most of the less-populated areas of the continent and although they can survive in most regions, they avoid dense forests and severe deserts. Emus are soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds with long necks and legs. Their feet are long, with three toes (one toe on each foot has a long talon, for fighting). They are good swimmers and can travel great distances. Emus can run at up to 65 Km/h for short bursts.

     The female emu resembles the male but slightly larger than him. She tends to be dominant, selecting her mate and choosing and defending a territory for the nest. Breeding takes place in May and June, and fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several clutches (each clutch contains 5-15 dark green eggs of weight 450-650 g per each) in one season. The male does the incubation; and during this process, he hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of his weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks (55 days), and the young are nurtured by their father. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season.

     Emus forage for a variety of plants and insects and sometimes small animals, but they have been known to go for weeks without eating and they drink infrequently. They produce red meat that tastes similar to beef but contains much less fat and is lower in calories than Chickens and Turkeys. Their skin can be made into a fine, light leather and they produce oil (from a large fatty strip along their back) that has been found to have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. There are few native natural predators of emus such as the Dingo (a wild dog found in Australia) and other types of raptors and red foxes that particularly threaten the chicks and the eggs.

Emu's head
Emu's head
The Emu
The Emu
Emu chicks
Emu chicks by Matthew Stinson