The common emu is the sole survivor of several now extinct species. This large, speedy, yet flightless bird lives in the riverbeds of Austrailia.
Emu is a common name for any member of a group of large, flightless birds. The emu is the sole living member of the family Dromaiidae. The common emu is the only survivor of several forms and breeds of emu, all of which were exterminated by settlers and over eager hunters. Today, the emu exists only in the wilds of Australia.
The emu is the second largest and second tallest bird in the world, beaten only by its distant cousin, the ostrich. Emus attain a mature height of 6 feet and commonly weigh between 100-130 pounds.
The wings of the emu are hidden beneath coarse feathers and are almost hair like in appearance. Plumage is dull brown in color, with darker shades dotting the head, neck and lower back regions. The underside of the emu is light in color, and the head and neck areas are grayish-blue. The emus bill and feet are brown.
The long, thick drooping feathers of the emu make it appear shaggy and larger than it is. Their heads are covered in shorter "downy" feathers that give to their unique appearance.
Emus have extremely long legs and 3 toed feet. Male and female emus look almost identical, with the female emu usually larger in size.
The sound of a male emu is somewhat like a deep growling grunt and can mostly be heard during mating season. Female emus make thudding, drumming noises and chicks emit whistling peeps.
Today, the emu inhabits open plains and brush areas of Australia. They are commonly found in wooded and scrubland forest area and also throughout grassland and desert areas.
The emu feeds on roots, fruits and herbs. They have also been known to consume insects, most commonly, grasshoppers. The emus drink once or twice daily.
This shy, peaceful bird is capable of running with a unique bouncing, swaying motion at up to 20 m.p.h. to elude attackers.
Emus are most often nomadic, with some roaming over hundreds of miles.
Emus are considered mature at the age of 18 months. The female typically lays between 5 and 20 dark green eggs in a scooped out hole in the ground, which the male has taken great pride in creating. Incubation of an emu egg takes nearly two months and is watched almost entirely by the male. The male emu commonly sits on the eggs, refusing to move, and protecting them from foxes, feral cats and dingoes. If a female approaches the eggs or the nest, the male will chase her away. It is the male who also cares for the newborn chicks.
Shortly before birth, the male emu builds a next of twigs, bark and mud near a riverbed. Once the chicks are born, the male emu transports them to the new nest, where he holds them safely under his wing for four days. After this period is over, the male instructs the chicks on how to hunt and gather grass and seeds, which the young feed on for the first few months of life. At eight months, the father leaves the chicks to hunt for their own food.
The lifespan of an emu in the wild is six years.