Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

The Emu is the second largest species of bird behind the Ostrich of Africa. A native of Australia, the flightless Emu has a long history with humans. An original food source for the indigenous Australians, Emu are now kept on farms worldwide for meat, feathers, oil, and leather.

Scientific classification: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Aves, Order Casuariiformes, Family: Casuariidae, Genus: Dromaius, Species: Dromaius novaehollandiae

Other Names: Common Emu

Range: Australia

Subspecies: Dromaius novaehollandiae novaehollandiae, Dromaius novaehollandiae woodwardi, Dromaius novaehollandiae rothschildi

The following are sometimes treated as disticnt species. Kangaroo Island or Dwarf Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae baudinianus was endemic to Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia, but became extinct sometime in the late 1820s due to habitat destruction and hunting by European settlers. The King Island Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae minor was found only on King Island located in between Australia and Tasmania, it became extinct in the early 1800s shortly after the arrival of Europeans who slaughtered the birds by the hundreds with some claims of one group killing nearly 4,000 in a 2 year period. The Tasmanian Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae diemenensis was found on Tasmania and suffered the same fate as the other two, it was also hunted ruthlessly by European settlers to extinction by the mid 1800s.

Habitat: Varied, from savannas to woodlands.

Status in Wild: The Emu has a broad range across Australia and is evaluated as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Aviculture: Emu are very adaptable to captivity and is farmed as livestock in many locations. They are large birds and obviously need a lot of space which makes them impracticable for a backyard aviary.

Nests are a simple scrape with a few twigs, leaves, and grasses where the female lays a clutch of 5 to 15 large green eggs. In the wild, Emu females are known to lay eggs in nests of other Emu, so some males could end up with many more chicks to look after than anticipated. The male Emu incubates the eggs for about 56 days after the females finish the clutch, he then cares for the precocial chicks for up to seven months without her help.

Emu are omnivores feeding on a variety of small animals and plants in the wild. In captivity, Emu are fed a commercial ratite pellet supplemented with various plant matter, mealwroms, and even mice. When foraging in a open paddock, they often eat any small animal it can locate.

Interesting Facts: Emu are large flightless birds, second only to the Ostrich from Africa in size. Their wings are small and vestigial, only about 8 inches long and are used primarily to help stabilize the birds when running. With their powerful legs, an Emu can run up 30 miles per hour and jump up to 7 feet into the air.

The Great Emu War took place in 1932 when the Australian military aided farmers in fighting some 20,000+ migrating Emu moving through and destroying crops. The "war" was and remains controversial, although reports of total Emu killed was fairly minimal and the Emu is widely considered the victor.

The genus Dromaius is from the Greek word for "runner".

    External Links

  • Common Emu - BirdLife International Factsheet
  • Emu - BirdLife Australia
  • Emu - eBird
  • Emu - Smithsonian's National Zoo

The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer, but when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again. - William Beebe, 1906

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