There are about 18000 species of birds. Among them, emus are the long-necked and long-limbed Australian natives, the second largest species in the world in terms of height.
These animals are fast, friendly, and feathery; hence, many people wish to have one as a pet. However, these birds can be seen only in Australia’s less populous parts.
These birds usually reach 6 feet or 1.8 meters in height and weigh about 54 kilograms or 120 pounds. So, in this article, let us discuss some really amazing facts about emu birds.
Fascinating Emu Facts
👉 They have unique adaptations.
Emus cannot fly; however, this doesn’t stop them from flapping their wings while running. Scientists think this helps them keep their balance when running at a very good speed. For this same reason, the pelvis of an emu also has a unique build.
Moreover, an emu has only three toes, unlike most other birds with four toes. Also, emu birds have thick pads under their feet, which also help them to travel long distances on foot. In addition, they have got soft beaks that they use for grazing.
👉 The origin of the emu’s name
According to the most common theory, the name of this bird was derived from an unknown Arabic word.
The Portuguese explorers first used this word for cassowaries in New Guinea. As emu is similar to those cassowaries, they were also called by this name.
According to another theory, the name emu came from ems, a Portuguese word used for big birds, like cranes and ostriches.
👉 Emus live all over Australia.
Emus usually live in the woodland and grassland regions along the coast of nearby places. Also, they used to avoid the desert interior, but due to human development, emus could penetrate those areas over time.
Usually, emus tend to avoid humans and places with a lot of people. These birds migrate annually; however, they must come and go with seasons to keep up with their food supply.
👉 Their feathers have distinct features.
Another amazing fact is that the tips of their feathers can absorb solar radiation. Their insulation ability also helps keep the bird from overheating even in the dry and hot Australian environment.
The build of their feathers is also very unique, with a fur-like texture near the body, and it becomes grass-like towards the tip areas.
Moreover, the color of these birds varies depending on their environment, offering the emus a form of natural camouflage.
👉 Emus sleep at night
Though emu birds settle down at sunset, they still sleep only during the night. Also, these birds wake up periodically to relieve themselves or snack on their surroundings before returning to sleep.
According to scientists, these birds mainly wake up every 90 minutes and usually, stay awake for 20 minutes. Also, emus fold their necks onto themselves while sleeping and crouch down against the ground.
These birds arrange their feathers so that when it rains, they can redirect the water to the ground. This works as another camouflage.
👉 Emus don’t drink a lot.
Usually, these birds don’t drink a lot, but when they do, they can drink a lot, and hence, they don’t need to drink again for a long time. In fact, when these birds drink, they can drink for almost 10 minutes straight.
According to scientists, this is another adaptation to Australia’s harsh climate; hence, emus can go long distances without drinking water along the way. Also, they can even travel for days before drinking water again.
👉 Emus eat various types of food.
Acacia leaves and grass make up the staple diet of this bird; however, they also eat various types of insects. Those include beetles, ants, crickets, cockroaches, ladybugs, grasshoppers, spiders, millipedes, etc.
According to scientists, these birds depend on insects for protein in their diet. Also, these birds have a symbiotic relationship with specific plants, whose seeds remain undigested when emus take them.
So, when emus shit, they scatter and leave those undigested seeds behind them, letting them grow in fertile soil.
👉 Sometimes emus eat strange things.
Like other birds, they swallow small stones, like gizzards, which remain in their stomachs. These stones bounce around during the digestive procedure, helping break down most foods in the stomach.
However, scientists also observed these birds swallow charcoal, and the reason for this is still unknown.
They have even observed these birds eating jewelry, car keys, small bits of metal, marbles, and broken glass.
👉 Male emu birds take care of the eggs.
Emus usually lay between 5 to 15 eggs. These eggs have green shells that help them blend into their surrounding environment. The male emu birds sit on those eggs until they hatch.
In this way, they can keep those eggs warm with their body mainly for a time period of 8 weeks.
During that time, they don’t go far from the eggs, and sometimes it can be to the point of starving themselves. Male emus may lose about a third of their body weight while caring for those eggs.
👉 The mating season of emus is between April and June
Male emu birds build nests by digging shallow holes in the ground. Then they line the nest with soft materials, such as leaves, grasses, and tree bark.
Also, they ensure that they can see any approaching predators from a good distance while building nests.
The female emus ruffle their feathers and make low sounds to attract a male’s attention. When a male appears, they will circle each other until the female emu either rejects or accepts the attention of a male.
👉 Emu birds face many predators.
Today, dingoes can be regarded as the main predator of emus, but these birds aren’t completely defenseless against dingoes.
These birds can jump into the air before stomping at the dingoes with claws and driving them off. In fact, dingoes cannot be regarded as the main cause of emu deaths, as environmental factors are more effective.
Some other predators of emu include eagles, though they mainly target chicks or juveniles rather than adults. However, sometimes foxes, dogs, or even pigs can prey on the eggs of the emus.
👉 Young emu birds grow quickly.
Chicks of emus usually grow into juveniles within just 6 months and can even fend for themselves.
Also, they usually stay with their fathers for another 6 months before leaving in the second mating season of their lives. Generally, scientists agree that emus grow into complete adults in just 15 months.
👉 Many people eat emu meat.
Emu meat made up a large part of the diets of the Europeans during the colonization of Australia. Though, today only Aborigines eat emu meat because this bird provides a major source of protein.
Actually, the Aborigines follow several traditional ways to catch these flightless birds, as emus can run really fast, making it hard to hunt.
A common method is ambushing the birds while they drink water. Sometimes, they even dress themselves up as emus and use imitation calls to lure and trap the birds.
👉 Emus even suffer from parasites.
Emus suffer from parasites, some of which are mites, lice, and ticks; however, they usually don’t develop any serious infestations.
Along with skin parasites, these birds may also suffer from intestinal nematodes and protists, resulting in hemorrhagic diarrhea. Nematodes might also infest their lungs, which might even lead to some serious respiratory issues.
👉 These birds don’t mate for life.
Female emus can store any sperm they receive from mating with a male.
This enables them to select when they wish their eggs to receive fertilization, mainly leading to batches of eggs with several different fathers. This way, a female emu can lay multiple batches of eggs in just one mating season.
👉 They have some other uses.
Today, aborigines still use emu oil as traditional medicine and the feathers of these birds to make decorations and clothes.
Also, these people use the bones of emus to make weapons and tools. Modern Australians still eat emu meat sometimes, and due to this, emus are getting farmed.
Moreover, emu oil is used in making cosmetics and dietary supplements. Also, the skins of these birds are processed into leather and used in making belts, bags, shoes, wallets, etc.
👉 Emus feature in many Australian myths
The Yuwaalaraay people, who live in New South Wales, believe that the gods created the Sun just by throwing an egg of this bird into the sky.
Another aboriginal tale claims that these flightless birds came from a man who made fun of a small bird. That bird then threw a boomerang toward the man, transforming him into the first emu bird and cutting off his arms.
Also, some Aboriginals have constellations similar to the shape of an emu, and even some of their dance rituals involve imitating an emu.
👉 Emus can’t walk backward.
Just like another native to Australia, kangaroos, these flightless birds cannot walk backward, which makes them a perfect symbol of progress.
Emu birds cannot walk backward because their knees don’t bend the correct way. However, they can move forward with an incredible speed of almost 50 km per hour. Also, you can find these birds all over Australia, including the arid inland places.
Thus, emus are interesting birds that are crucial to the Australian ecosystem and cultural heritage. Their unique adaptations and characteristics make them an important subject for study.
At the end of this article, we learned about 18 really amazing facts about this fascinating bird of Australia called the emus.
These facts offer us a clear picture of our planet’s interesting flightless, speedy bird. If you want to collect some more information, you may visit our website.
I’m a former teacher with a background in child development and a passion for creating engaging and educational activities for children. I strongly understand child development and know how to create activities to help children learn and grow. Spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, reading, and volunteering in my community.