Emus, the second largest birds in the world, native to Australia belong to a group of flightless running birds called ratites. They are the most primitive out of all the modern bird families and are found only in the Southern Hemisphere. Other members of the family include: the kiwi, ostrich, rhea, and cassowary.
Emus are omnivores (meaning they eat both meat and vegetation) and search for their food during the day. They eat seasonal plants and seeds, such as acacia seeds, cassia leaves and pods, new grass shoots, and various fruits. Their diets also consist of caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, lizards, and moths. They typically live and search for food alone, though occasionally they will form large migratory flocks in order to relocate to better resources.
These birds are common all throughout Australia, although they tend to steer clear of big cities, deserts, and dense forests. They are so widespread, even, that they are included in the Australian coat of arms, alongside the kangaroo. More than six hundred locations in Australia are named after the emu, too. The Australian government has dedicated a great amount of land to preserving the emus and restricting their habitats from reaching large population centers.
The female and male emus are distinct in appearance. The female is both larger and heavier than the male. The male emu of a breeding pair is the one to build the nest. After the female has laid the eggs, she will wander off, potentially finding another mate, leaving the male to incubate the eggs. During this time period, the male does not eat or leave the nest, moving only to turn the eggs occasionally. To prepare for this, he will store up fat reserves in his body which will tide him over until the chicks hatch. During the incubation period, he will lose roughly one third of his total body weight. Emus typically form social groups consisting of the father and his offspring.
Emu eggs are about the same weight and volume as a dozen chicken eggs. The average weight in from one to one and a half pounds, and nearly ten inches long. They are dark green in color and shiny, with a slightly pitted surface. All in all, they do resemble avocados. The incubation of the young emus takes roughly eight weeks, with anywhere from five to fifteen eggs per clutch, and up to three clutches per season. Young emus reach maturity after two or three years. The lifespan of the typical emu is between ten and twenty years, potentially thirty-five in captivity.
Did you know that emus are good swimmers and often swim in ponds or lakes, and can also sit in water easily? Did you know that the first occurrence of identical twin birds was discovered in the emu? Did you know that an emu’s stride when running can reach up to nine feet in length? Did you find these facts interesting? Read more about the emu here.
Thank you for joining us this week to read about these fascinating birds. Tune in later this week for another blog post. Until then, goodbye.