Australian Emu – the 3rd largest bird in the world

Australian Emu

Australian Emu is the third largest bird in the world, right after the ostrich and southern cassowary.

They average emu weight in 35 kg, but it is possible to find even 60 kg individuals. Emu’s length and height are approximate 1.5 meters, so it is quite a large bird especially if you encounter it in the Australian outback.

Emus make pairs for life. The female lays between 7 to 10 eggs and the male incubates them in the ground nest for about 60 days. The striped young chicks run with the adults in small flocks and hunt for food including fruits and insects.

Emu Distribution

Emu can only be found in Australia. It lives in almost all parts of the continent.

In the past, emus were very common on the east coast, but due to the agricultural development and increased population, they moved to more arid habitats inland.

Emu Distribution
Emu Distribution

Australian Emu Habitat

Emus can be found both inland and near the coast. Their preferred habitats are savannah woodland and sclerophyll forest. They live less commonly in areas with minimal rainfall which they leave and travel long distances to reach areas with abundant feeding sources.

This nomadic behaviour is typical for Western Australia where Emus move in a seasonal pattern, north in summer, and south in winter.

Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia are the states with the biggest Emu distribution.

There are no Emus in Tasmania.

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In Tasmania, Emus became extinct around 1865.

What sound do they make?

Male Emus make pig-like grunting sounds.
Female Emus make grunting and loud booming sounds.

All different Emu sounds are made through their 30 cm long, tracheal pouch that is part of its windpipe.

Is Emu endangered?

The bird is common across the whole continent and as such Emu conservation status is rated as ‘least-concern species’.

However, there are some areas where the local population of emus are decreasing. The most common threats to Emus are road kills, predation of their legs and fragmentation of their habitats.

Emu Lifespan

Emu’s typical lifespan in the wild is 5 to 10 years. In captivity, though this can be increased to 15 – 20 years. The oldest recorded emu died at the age of 38.

Can Emu fly?

Similar to other big birds like Ostriches and cassowaries, Emu is a flightless bird and cannot fly.

Emu vs Ostrich – main differences

Lifespan10-20 years30-50 years
Size35 kg80 kg
Feet3 toes2 toes
Speed50 km/h70 km/h
Colourbrown to blackdark brown to black with white patches

More interesting facts about emus

  • Emus are known for their powerful legs, which they use to run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. They can also jump up to 7 feet in the air.
  • Emus are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their diet includes fruits, seeds, insects, and small vertebrates.
  • Emus have a unique reproductive system. The female lays the eggs and then leaves the male to incubate and care for the chicks.
  • Emus are known for their distinctive drumming sound, which they make by vibrating their throat pouches.
  • Emus have been known to go without food or water for up to several weeks, making them highly adaptable to their environment.
  • Emus are culturally significant to the Indigenous people of Australia, who have used their feathers for ceremonial purposes and their meat and eggs as a source of food.
  • Emus have been featured on the Australian coat of arms since 1912, alongside the kangaroo, to symbolize the country’s national spirit of progress and forward movement.
  • Emus have been known to swallow small objects such as stones and metal objects, which they use to grind up food in their gizzard.
  • Emus have been farmed for their meat, oil, and leather, and are also popular as a tourist attraction in Australia, where visitors can observe and interact with them in various settings.

Our encounters with Emu

During our extensive outback trips, we saw Emus many times. The most interactive ones were in:
Diggers Rest Station (WA) – Emus at the station are local pets and they are very inquisitive. We had a little trouble leaving the station as one of the Emus was wandering around the car. Read the store from our Wyndham post.

Broken Hill Historic Silver Minewe were leaving the silver mine after having a very informative tour. We jumped in the car and started driving on a dirt road.

One Emu was running in front of the car and did not want to leave the road. Our daughter (3 years old) started screaming Daddy don’t step on Emu! It was so funny we remember it until today

|- Mareeba Wetlands – again, we were leaving Mareeba Wetlands but the road was patrolled by two Emus. Interestingly they were not very keen to leave the road!

Mareeba Wetlands - Guarding emus
Mareeba Wetlands – Guarding emus checking who is driving in and out

Apart from our true outback experiences, we saw Emus many times while driving off-road. Usually, there were walking in small mobs of up to 10 individuals.

Australian Emu – more information

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