This is one of the largest birds on the planet, and because of their extremely strong legs, one of the most dangerous bird species as well!
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about emus, one of the most fascinating creatures in the world!
1. They are the second-biggest birds on the planet
The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is one of the biggest birds in the world. In fact, there’s only one bird that is bigger which is the ostrich, another member of the ratite group of birds that are pretty easy to recognize.
The largest of this type of bird can reach a height of anywhere between 150 and 190 centimeters (59 and 75 inches), with the male average being 148.5 centimeters (58.5 inches) and the female average being 156.8 centimeters (61.7 inches).
Yes, female emus are actually taller on average than males!
2. Only 2 types of birds are heavier than emus
One of the most remarkable facts about emus is that they aren’t the heaviest birds on the planet. Both the two species of ostriches and two heavier species of cassowaries weigh more than the slender emu.
Adult emus weigh anywhere between 18 and 60 kilos (40 and 132 lbs) with the males weighing 31.5 kilos (69 lbs) and the females 37 kilos (87 lbs) on average.
The main reason why the females are heavier isn’t just their height but also because they are a lot wider around the rump.
3. These birds are native to the country down under
The emu is one of the most important cultural icons in their native country of Australia, almost at an equal level as the kangaroo. They can be found all across the country even though their population has drastically decreased near the east coast.
There used to be subspecies living in some of Australia’s islands as well such as Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, and King Island, but these have gone extinct since the Europeans landed in Australia in 1788.
This also means that the emu is the last extant member of the genus Dromaius, a group of ratites native to Australia.
4. They can run faster than Usain Bolt
Emus can not only travel long distances to find food, but they also have the ability to tun extremely fast. They can run faster than the fastest human being in history, Usain Bolt, who once reached a top speed of 44.72 kilometers per hour (27.8 miles per hour).
The top speed of emus is estimated to be up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour), which is indeed faster than Usain. It would be nice to see a race between the two to confirm this fact.
5. They can’t fly even though they have wings
One of the most fascinating facts about emus is that even though these are flightless birds, they do have wings. The wing chord even has a length of up to 20 centimeters (8 inches).
Even though they don’t use these wings to fly, when they take off running you can see them clapping their wings. It’s assumed that they do this to stabilize themselves, similar to how we use our arms when we go running.
The main characteristic of these birds is that they have long necks and legs which makes it a bit more complicated to balance themselves, so these supposedly redundant wings come in handy when they reach high speeds running.
6. Their original name was a reference to another dangerous bird
When European explorers visited the western coast of Australia in the late 17th century, they were first seen by a Dutch captain named Willem de Vlamingh on one of his expeditions.
When the first Europeans settled in Australia nearly a century later, these birds were named the “New Holland cassowary,” a reference to the most dangerous birds in the world and fellow ratite the cassowary.
The genus Dromaius was named shortly after and was derived from a Greek word that means “racer,” a reference to the speed these birds can reach while running.
7. They only have 3 toes but very powerful legs
There’s a reason why ratites are considered to be the most dangerous birds on the planet, and that’s because they all have extremely long and sharp claws. The bad temper of the cassowary makes them a lot more dangerous, but emus can cause serious damage too when they feel threatened.
They have 3 toes on each foot, which doesn’t help them with stability, but the fact that they have a length of up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) turns these into very powerful weapons.
8. Their colors can vary based on where they live
One of the most amazing facts about emus is that the color of their plumage can vary based on where they live in Australia. Emus that live in arid areas of Australia with their distinctive red soil, their color appears to be more reddish-brown.
If, on the other hand, they live in more damp and humid areas, their plumage is likely to be a lot darker in color.
The reason for this is that the color of their plumage has adapted to its surroundings and serves as a layer of protection in the form of camouflage. This is especially needed for individuals living among dingos, their main predator.
Regardless of the main color of their plumage, all emus have a distinctive pale blue neck and the tips of their feathers are completely black.
9. They mostly feed on plants and a variety of insects
These birds can travel long distances when food is scarce and can go weeks without eating. They also don’t drink too often but when they have a chance, they guzzle as if there’s no tomorrow!
Their diet mainly consists of various types of plants, including but not limited to the Acacia, Casuarina, and a wide variety of grasses.
Their protein intake mainly comes from a large number of different insects and arthropods such as grasshoppers and crickets, beetles, cockroaches, ladybirds, cotton-boll moth larvae, ants, spiders, and millipedes.
If these things are not available, they will eat fruits and wheat as well, based on the types available that particular season.
10. The male emu takes care of the incubation and the young
Perhaps one of the most intriguing facts about emus is that the male emu mostly takes care of the breeding process after the female has laid her eggs, which she does 2 or 3 times every year.
Breeding pairs are formed between December and January when the female starts luring in a lucky male by courting him in various ways. The male builds the nest and they remain together for up to 5 months.
The male incubates the eggs for about 56 days. For the entire duration of this period, he hardly eats or drinks. When the eggs finally hatch, he also takes care of nurturing the young.
This obviously means that the male loses a lot of weight during this period as well!
11. These birds were an important source of food for Aboriginal Australians
These birds have always been important in Australia, especially for the aboriginal people. Some cultures even considered these birds to be sacred and are part of a creation myth in which an emu egg was thrown into the sky which created the Sun.
Another story refers to the Milky Way resembling a giant emu in the sky, clearly indicating how obsessed these people were with this animal.
Regardless, these birds have always been hunted for their meat and formed an important source of food for aboriginal Australians. This was adapted by the European settlers and the emu has been farmed in Australia since the 1970s.
12. This bird appears on Australia’s Coat of Arms
The importance of the emu as a cultural icon in Australia is emphasized by the fact that this animal has been included in the coat of arms of the country. It’s therefore unofficially considered as the national bird of the country.
The bird has also been featured on various Australian postage stamps and various Australian companies have added the emu to their emblem.
Because of their wide distribution in mainland Australia, we’re also happy to mention that the emu is far from endangered and listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List with over 600,000 individual birds still roaming around today!