Emu

Emus live only in Australia.

Emus are birds but they can't fly.

Emus have long strong legs for running.

Emus are covered with fluffy feathers.

Emus eat grass, fruits, flowers, seeds and insects.


The emu is Australia's largest bird. It is the second largest bird in the world by height - the ostrich is bigger.

Why don't emus fly?
The emu is part of a group of birds called ratites. Ratites are birds that do not fly. The other ratites are the ostrich in Africa, the Australian cassowary, the rhea in South America and the small kiwi in New Zealand. Ratites do have wings but the bones across their chest do not have a part for flight muscles to attach to. The sternum, or breastbone, of flying birds is shaped like a keel while ratites have a a raft-shaped breastbone.

Emus can run at speeds of up to 50 km per hour.

Where is the emu found?
The emu is quite common and is found over much of mainland Australia, though fewer live in desert areas. They were once found in Tasmania before the arrival of Europeans, but were wiped out soon after.

Appearance
Emus are about 2 metres tall. They have small wings that help the bird cool itself in hot weather - they hold the wings out so that the air can circulate around their body.

Emu females are generally larger than the males. The females weigh about 40 kilograms, the males about 36 kg.

Emu feathers are long and brown, and grow in pairs with two shafts joined at the base. Emus are the only birds that have double feathers. The barbs coming out of the shafts are separate, not joined together as they are in the feathers of birds that fly. This means that the bird looks more like it is covered in hair than in feathers.

Emu necks are often without feathers, and the skin is bluish.

Their beaks are wide and soft, for grazing grass and browsing in bushes. Emus have long legs, with three large toes, each with a claw. When emus sit, their feet go out in front of them. People think their knees bend forward, but actually the knee is higher up, under the feathers so we can't see them. The part we see that bends forward is actually the bird's ankle.

Emus make grunting noises and also a deep drumming sound.

Emu Diet
Emus are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and meat. They eat fruits, flowers, insects, seeds and green plants. As they peck at the grass, they pick up snails, slugs and other grubs as well.

Birds have a part of their body called a gizzard. The food they swallow goes into the gizzard to be ground up so that it can be digested. Emus swallow quite large stones to help grind up the food in their gizzard.


Life Cycle
Emus generally find partners in summer, December-January, and breed in the winter months, May-August. If conditions are bad, such as a severe drought, emus may not breed at all, or the female may only lay a few eggs. In excellent conditions she may lay a larger than usual clutch of eggs. The large green eggs are laid gradually over several days, usually 5-9 days. The female then leaves and the male sits on the eggs for 8 weeks until they hatch. He hardly leaves the nest, and does not eat much during this time.

The chicks are cream coloured, with dark stripes running from head to tail.

The chicks stay with the male for about 18 months. He misses the next breeding season.

The female does not stay with the eggs or chicks. Because the climate may be harsh, it takes a while for her to regain her energy so that she is ready to breed in the next season with a different male.




Emu eggs are a beautiful dark green colour. They are big eggs. Inside, the shell is white.

This is an emu egg with some chicken eggs so that you can compare the sizes.




Read more about emus here:
http://www.planetozkids.com/oban/animals/facts-emu.htm
http://australian-animals.net/emu.htm
http://www.abc.net.au/schoolstv/animals/EMUS.htm

A newly hatched emu chick, still wet




If you use any part of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Emu [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au(2004).

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Updated September 2012©kidcyber