#CreatureFeature – Dromaius novaehollandiae (Emu)

The emu is Australia’s tallest bird, growing to heights of between 1.6 m and 1.9 m. The adults are covered with shaggy grey-brown feathers all over except for the neck and head which is almost bare. Emus are flightless and have greatly reduced wings. They are, however, fantastic runners and have strong, powerful legs.

Emu typically occupy sclerophyll forest and savanna woodlands and are rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas.

Their diets consist of fruits, seeds, plant shoots, insects, other small animals, and animal droppings. It is not uncommon to see thousands of seeds in emu scats and in fact, they play an important role in seed dispersal.

Emu’s nest over the winter months and the male and female will remain together for around 5 months. During this time they will court, build a nest and lay eggs. The nest is built on the ground and is made of grass platform, roughly 10cm thick and one to two metres in diameter.

The female will lay eggs every two to four days. These large eggs are roughly 130mm x 90mm in size and are dark bluish-green in colour.

During courtship, the female dominates the male. However, once the male begins to incubate the eggs he becomes aggressive and the female will leave him to incubate the eggs all alone.

At this point the female may find another mate and breed again. The male incubates the eggs without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest.

Newly hatched chicks are distinctively coloured and are cream with dark brown stripes. Once they leave the nest, young birds stay close together and remain with the male for four months leaving at around six months of age.

By 6 months their stripes fade and the downy plumage is replaced by dull brown feathers.

Emus are nearly fully grown at one year, and may breed at 20 months.

Source: http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/emu

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