The emu is the largest bird native to Australia. It is the second largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of emus in Australia. The emu is common over most of mainland Australia.
The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2 meters in height. They have long thin necks and legs. Emus can travel great distances at a fast economical trot and, if necessary, can sprint at 50km/h.
They are opportunistically nomadic and may travel long distances to find food; they feed on a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without food. Emus ingest stones, glass shards and bits of metal to grind food in their digestive systems. They drink infrequently, but take in copious fluids when the opportunity arises. Emus will sit in water and are also able to swim. They are curious birds who are known to follow and watch other animals and humans.
Emus use their strongly clawed feet as a defence mechanism. Their legs are among the strongest of any animal, allowing them to rip metal wire fences. They are endowed with good eyesight and hearing, which allows them to detect predators in the vicinity. The plumage varies regionally, matching the surrounding environment and improving its camouflage. The feather structure prevents heat from flowing into the skin, permitting emus to be active during midday heat.
Emus breed in May and June and are not monogamous; fighting among females for a mate is common. The animals put on weight before breeding season, and the male does most of the incubation, losing significant weight during this time as he does not eat. The eggs hatch after eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months. Emus can live between 10 and 20 years in the wild and are predated by dingoes, eagles and hawks. They can jump and kick to avoid dingoes, but against eagles and hawks, they can only run and swerve.
You will see Emus during your guided tour of Safari Ostrich Farm; we show you how much bigger the ostrich is compared to the Emu.