Emus belong to flightless running birds called ratites. Ratites are the oldest form of birds, including Ostrich, Kiwi, Rhea, and Cassowary. Emus are the second-largest birds in the world (Ostriches are the largest). The word “Emu” is either derived from an Arabic word meaning “large bird” or derived from the Portuguese word “ema,” which denotes “large bird.” It is also believed that the word emu is given to these birds because of the “E-moo” sound they make.
They belong to Animalia kingdom, Chordata phylum, Aves class, Casuariiformes order, Casuariidae family, and Dromaius genus. Their scientific name is Dromaius novaehollandiae. The word “Dromaius” is a Greek word that means “runner,” and the word “novaehollandiae” means “New Hollander” (Refers to New holland Cassowary, Emu’s initial classification). There are four subspecies of Emu. These include Dromaius novaehollandiae novaehollandiae, Dromaius novaehollandiae Woodward, Dromaius novaehollandiae rothschildi, and Dromaius novaehollandiae diagenesis.
These birds are endemic to Australia. The three subspecies live in northern, southeastern, and southwestern Australia. The fourth subspecies (Dromaius novaehollandiae diagenesis) that became extinct in 1865 inhabited Tasmania. The two other extinct species are Dromaius minor (found in King Island) that became extinct in 1822, and Dromaius baudinianus (found in Kangaroo Island) that became extinct in 1827.
Their geographical range includes Indonesia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and the Philippines. Their habitats are grasslands and dry forests. They exhibit migration to the south in Australia during winter and towards the north during summer in order to find more food and water. They live mostly in temperate climates. Some of them are also found in the Snowy Mountains of Australia.
They exhibit dark brown-colored feathers that become lighter in the shade with the advancement of age. Their feathers are less water-resistant than feathers of other birds. They exhibit stiff tail feathers, which are rattled by these birds to scare predators. Their neck and head have bluish skin.
They have two long legs, three toes (forward-facing) on each foot, and tiny wings. They can’t fly, so they use their long legs to escape from predators. They exhibit quite a long stride of about 9 feet long. They are also famous for their kicks (because of the sharp nails on their toes) to cause injury to predators such as dingoes.
They exhibit a variety of vocalizations. The special structure of the trachea present in these birds helps them making loud booming sounds during the breeding season. Some of their calls include “E-moo,” “grunts,” “drumming,” and “thumping.” They are usually solitary but can form groups known as mobs consisting of 20 birds while foraging.
Mostly they are non-aggressive. They only become aggressive when they feel threatened. During the breeding season, they exhibit aggressive nature towards each other. They are diurnal birds. The membrane present over each eye protects them against dust and debris in dry habitats. They maintain their body temperatures with the help of their long feathers by fluffing them. In hot areas, they often pant like a dog to cool down.
They are omnivores. Their diet includes fruits, small reptiles, beetles, and droppings of other animals. As they don’t exhibit teeth, so they swallow pebbles that help in grinding food pieces in their stomach. They play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling the insect population and dispersing seeds. Their breeding season starts in December and January. They are polygamous. Their nesting sites are grounds. The nests are made from leaves, twigs, and grass. Courtship ritual includes strutting around females by ruffling feathers.
They have an average size of about 4.9 feet to 6.2 feet or 1.5 meters to 1.9 meters and an average weight of about 66 pounds to 121 pounds or 30 kilograms to 55 kilograms. They exhibit a top speed of about 30 miles per hour.
The main predators of Emus are dingoes that often steal Emus’ eggs as well as attack adults. Emus scare these predators with their kicks and also makes some hissing sounds. Some other predators are hawks and eagles. These birds are often hunted to obtain the oil present in their bodies to make medicines and creams. They were also considered pests because they used to eat seeds while wandering on the farms. Despite these facts, Emus are listed as least concerned by International Union for the Conservation of Nature. There are approximately 630,000 to 725,000 Emus in the world. Their average lifespan is 12 to 20 years.
EMU BIRD EGG:
After the formation of nests in the grounds with the help of twigs, grass, and leaves, females lay 5 to 15 eggs. The size of the egg is five × 3.5 inches; the weight is 1 pound to 1.4 pounds. The eggs are avocado green in color. Males incubate the eggs for about eight weeks.
Females don’t perform the task of incubation. They go in search of other mates. Males don’t eat, drink or defecate while sitting on eggs, and they lose one-third of their body weight. During this time, the stored fat in their bodies serves as nourishment. After hatching, the chick has a size of about 9.8 inches. The chicks have downy feathers during the initial days, and they stay with their fathers for about 18 months after hatching. During this time period, males strictly defend their young ones against predators. The chicks become sexually mature at about two years of their age.
EMU BIRD CAN FLY OR NOT?
Emus belong to flightless ratites. They can’t fly because of the following reasons.
Emus exhibit extremely short wings that are not properly built. These wings have poor quality shaggy fur like flying feathers.
Scientists believe that Emus lost their flying ability because of the extinction of their only predators known as dinosaurs.
Mutations in regulatory DNA:
Scientists believe that ratites lost their flying ability due to mutations in their regulatory DNA. These mutations shrank the wings of ratites. The flightless birds also exhibit large-sized bodies and longer legs.
Absence of keel bone:
Flightless birds have chest bone (sternum) but don’t exhibit keel bone (site of flight muscles attachment).
EMU BIRD CHARACTERISTICS:
Some of the characteristics exhibited by Emus are as follows,
- Emus are the second-largest birds in the world and largest in Australia.
- They prefer less populated areas. They avoid deserts and dense forests.
- They are brown colored that exhibit soft feathers, tiny wings, long legs and necks, three-toed (having long talons for fighting) long feet.
- They are good swimmers and can travel great distances. They defend their babies and themselves with their strong kicks.
- Both the male and females are similar except that females have a slightly large size as compared to males.
- They are polygamous. Males incubate the eggs while females go in search of other mates.
- They store fat in their bodies. This stored fat is used by males during the incubation period when they don’t eat anything.
- They feed on a variety of plants, insects as well as small animals. They eat pebbles to grind food because they lack teeth.
- Their skin is specialized to produce oil that is used in the formation of medicines, creams, and other products.
- They maintain their body temperatures with the help of their feathers and often pant like dogs to cool down in hot weather conditions.
- They protect themselves against debris in dry habitats with the help of membranes present above their eyes.
- Dingoes are the major threats to these birds and their chicks.
EMU BIRD DANGEROUS:
Usually, Emus are not aggressive, but during the breeding season, they become really aggressive because of the protection of their eggs and chicks against predators like dingoes.
They exhibit great running speed. They can run at the speed of about 30 miles per hour to escape from predators. They can kick the predators because of the talons present on their three-toed feet. They also make some hissing sounds to scare the predators.
EMU BIRD EGG WEIGHT:
Female Emu birds lay 5 to 15 green-colored eggs. The weight of the egg is 1 pound to 1.4 pounds or 450 grams to 650 grams.
EMU BIRD EGG COLOUR:
Emu bird’s eggs are avocado green in color with small pits on their surface.
EMU BIRD HATCHING:
After incubation for about eight weeks by male, the eggs hatch, the chicks have downy feathers and are brown and cream striped. These striped feathers help them in hiding from predators. They are precocial (can walk immediately and leave the nest after hatching), but they stay with their fathers for further 18 months. During this time period, fathers teach their young ones how to go in search of food and stay safe from predators. The chicks become sexually mature at about two years of their age.
EMU BIRD EGG USES:
Emu eggs are unusual green colored eggs (due to the presence of biliverdin pigment in their shells), about six inches in length and one pound in weight (quite heavier than chicken’s egg). These eggs have tough and durable shells that make them a good choice for crafting and also help in keeping them fresh in the refrigerator for long periods of time.
An emu egg is equal to 10 chicken eggs nutritiously. These eggs contain more quantity of good and less bad cholesterol as compared to chicken eggs. They contain 31% saturated and 68% unsaturated fats and also contain eight essential amino acids. Their taste is very similar to chicken eggs.
EMU BIRD FACTS:
Some of the facts about Emus are as follows,
- Emu birds are native to Australia.
- They are the second-largest birds in the world.
- They are the largest birds in Australia.
- Their most distinctive features are their enormous body size and large eyes.
- Their distinctive booming calls can be heard up to 2 kilometers away.
- They inhabit open grasslands.
- They are omnivores and can eat fruits, seeds, and insects.
- They are usually solitary but can also live in the form of flocks which are called mobs.
- They are fast runners and can reach a speed of about 30 miles per hour. They are also great swimmers.
- Male Emus incubate the eggs.
- They are flightless birds.
- The Emu’s stride can be almost 9 feet long.
- Their bodies contain 3 gallons of oil that are used in lotions, soaps, etc.
- Their predators are dingoes, wild dogs, and birds of prey.
- They are recorded as “least concern” by IUCN.
- The estimated population is 630,000 to 725,000.
- The subspecies that lived in Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, and King Island are extinct species.
- Their average lifespan is 12 to 20 years. The oldest known Emu lived for about 38 years.
Emus are the second-largest flightless birds in the world and largest in Australia that belong to ratites inhabiting grasslands. They are well known for their long necks and legs, talons on their three-toed feet, a long stride of about 9 feet, loud booming and grunting calls, great traveling speed, oil-producing skin, membranes over their eyes, polygamous behavior, and ecosystem roles of dispersing seeds. They have a stable population, but their three subspecies are extinct.