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1

Emu

(Dromaius novaehollandiae)
Aboriginal name(s): "atyimba", "boolongena", "kaltee", "miowera", "pinyali", "punnanumta", "wakaje", "warritcha", "beek-beek", "boongil", "boorameel", "burrimul", "cubaree", "goolberri" ("koolbaree"), "kalaya", "kallee", "karawingie", "koolpurrie", "koonappo", "koruni", "langura", "maowera", "marayong", "moorine", "nooroon", "oorooba", "pinyali", "tarrawingie"
Race "novaehollandiae": "dhinawan" [gamilaraay], "noori" [ngemba]
Race "rothschildi": "wetj", "wedji", "kulya", "kaya", "yallibiri"

Size: 1.5-1.9 m
Weight: 18-55 kg; averages: 31.5 kg (male), 36.9 kg (female)
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Emu at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "novaehollandiae"

ADULT

MALE

Close-up lateral portrait of an old male Emu
[Narrabri, NSW, December 2006]

Lateral view of a male Emu - note the large area of bare skin on the neck
[Near Coonamble, NSW, April 2017]

Lateral view of a male Emu, now with its head turned away
[Near Coonamble, NSW, April 2017]

FEMALE

Close-up frontal portrait of a female Emu
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2016]

Close-up lateral portrait of a female Emu
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2016]

Lateral view of a female Emu
[Warrumbungle NP, NSW, May 2006]

"Double-headed Emu" (female in foreground and male behind)
[Goran Lake, NSW, February 2012]

Very distant (>2 km) view of a pair of Emus that was seen by us foraging not only on-shore (as visible here), but also in shallow freshwater
[Goran Lake, NSW, February 2012]

"French Can-can a la Emu"
[Warrumbungle NP, NSW, May 2006]

Full-frontal portrait of an Emu taken in captivity (photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)

Near-frontal portrait of an Emu taken in captivity (photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Adult with two immature Emus

Frontal view of an immature Emu
[Warrumbungle NP, NSW, March 2007]

Lateral portrait of an immature Emu
[Warrumbungle NP, NSW, March 2007]

Emu dad on a road trip with his offspring
[Currawinya NP, QLD, September 2012]

Here a bunch of Emu youngsters is brought to a dam to have a drink
[A class="main" HREF="/NatParks/Oz_NPs/sturt.php">Sturt NP, QLD, September 2012]

Distant view of two Emu chicks on a dirt road; at the time they were about 0.5 m tall
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, September 2008]

Adult male Emu hiding a chick in roadside weeds
[Near Bellata, NSW, September 2015]

Emu chick seen from behind, fleeing through tall grass
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, September 2008]

Emu footprint; this bird was running - the spacing between the individual prints was more than 2 m
[20 km South of Narrabri, July 2012]

Race "rothschildi"

ADULT

MALE

Two Emus on dry grassland; the male bird on the left is demonstrating how Emu scats are produced (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Manjimup, WA, March 2015]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Apr - Oct Eggs: 6 - 12 Incubation period: 60 days Fledging age: N/A

In Emu society it is the females who choose their mates. They are not monogamous and mate with several partners, possibly laying several batches of eggs in one season. Emu chicks are precocial, i.e. they leave the nest soon after hatching.

Nest building: Male Incubation: Male Dependent care: Male

The male Emu takes on all breeding duties. It has been observed that an old, well-camouflaged male tends to the nest and incubates the eggs (while the rest of the family clan can be feeding elsewhere). Later the male rears the chicks in dense woodland. They emerge into open grassland again when the chicks, which stay with the male for about 18 months, are relatively safe from predators. The male will later also lead the chicks away from their birth place so as to ensure that they cannot, as adults, mate with close family members.

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Scrape Material: Grass and/or leaf lining Height above ground: N/A

Emus use slightly elevated moulds in open grassland that they scrape clean of vegetation before lining them.

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 135 x 90 mm Colour: Dark green Shape: Elliptical

Emu egg; one can clearly see the egg's structured surface; this single egg was found in a fallow field, a day after a new crop had been seeded (when there was no egg to be seen)
[Near Bellata, NSW, May 2015]

Emu egg in an egg cup...

Size comparison between an Emu egg and a chicken egg

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Roaming Mobility: Vagrant; migratory in WA Elementary unit: Solitary/pair/family clan

The "social behaviour" characterisation of "roaming" (above) indicates that family clans of Emus are not territorial, but they are not communal either.

We have observed family groups of up to 10 birds in total, slowly progressing while searching for food, usually seen foraging in open grasslands. When approached by humans they take flight into cover at high speed, except where used to the presence of humans, as e.g. near picnic areas. When fed they can become quite tame.

Approachable Emus at a picnic area

In dry conditions, Emus will congregate in larger numbers.

Emus using a farm dam to take a bath
[Near Bourke, NSW, September 2012]

Just in this one paddock more than 50 Emus were counted by us
[Near Bourke, NSW, September 2012]

Additional information

There is a separate page describing a male Emu wooing a female.

Food, Diet

Adults: Grass and other plants Dependents: As adults Water intake: Infrequent, copious

Although normally vegetarian, feeding on plants on open grass plains or open woodland, Emus are known to occasionally also take insects. Plant material, such as grass, is hard to digest - Emus use stones as grit to aid digestion.

Emu dad bringing his offspring to the local waterhole for a drink (photo courtesy of M. Mearns)
[Currawinya NP, near Hungerford, QLD, October 2012]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

emu_20140119_2.mp3 novaehollandiae
(NW NSW)
Warning call (male with chicks) © MD
emu_20160623_noNR.mp3 novaehollandiae
(NW NSW)
Female calling male © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.