Dromaius novaehollandiae - Emu


Note 1

























Dromaius novaehollandiae

Common name

: emu


  • Height from the top of the head: 1.5 - 1.9 m
  • Height to the back: 1.0 - 1.3 mWeight: 50 - 55 kg
  • Lifespan:6 years
  • Sexual maturity:2 years
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years in the wild


Emu, scientific name Dromaius novaehollandiae of the familyDromaiidae, is a bird that lives in Australia in different types of habitats ranging from wooded areas to plains, from coastal areas to more inland areas. The only areas where it is not found are the tropical forests, the far north and all densely inhabited areas. It is also possible to find it on the edge of the desert but only after the period of rains.


The emu is a large bird second only to the ostrich and like him it has lost the ability to fly but has developed that of running thanks to the particularly long and powerful limbs that end with three fingers, more like claws, which allow it to have an excellent feat in the ground and which become, in case of need, an offensive weapon. If threatened, it can reach speeds of 50km / h.

Note 2

There is sexual dimorphism as the male is about 10% smaller than the female.

A peculiarity of the emu is that the skin is blue in color.

It has small, pointed wings, about 20 cm long, which have lost the ability to fly and simply hang down at the sides. The feathers have the particularity, unique among birds, of having a double rachis, in fact from the calamus (which is the part fixed in the skin) a secondary feather of the same length as the main one develops. This peculiarity means that its plumage is particularly spiky and along the neck and on the back there is a long parting giving the sensation that the emu has "combed with the part in the middle". The plumage is dark in color when young, which gradually lightens with age due to the sun.


The emu is a social bird that can be found in pairs, in small groups or large groups of even hundreds of individuals.

It is a fundamentally shy but very curious animal, which moves from one area to another following the rains and for this reason it is defined as a migratory bird.

It is not a territorial bird in the sense that, except during the reproductive period, it has no territorial pretensions as it constantly moves in search of water and food that it accumulates to form fat reserves for difficult periods, during which it can also lose its half the weight (see paragraph "Reproduction and growth of the young").


It is not a particularly sophisticated animal in eating as it adapts to the availability of food: if the season is good it prefers to feed on flower seeds or tender shoots as well as on small vertebrates and insects; if the season is not favorable, then it feeds on whatever it finds, grass or leaves, even dry and leathery.

To search for food, it walks very slowly by moving its head to ground level and tearing the vegetation with its beak and then the food is swallowed with a backward blow with the head.


The male emu in the context of reproduction, unlike most of the animal species, takes on a key role, in fact it is he who takes care of both the acova and the subsequent growth of the chicks until reaching adulthood.

Note 3

When the mating season arrives (in the month of December, that is to say during the Australian summer period), the female emits sounds similar to drum beats to attract the attention of the male. At that point the male begins to build the nest with herbs, branches, bark and whatever he can find. Once finished, the male waits for a female to pass by to mate.

Shortly before actual mating, the male and female stand next to each other, swinging their heads and holding their necks bent until the female sits down to be mounted.

From that moment and for about five months the couple uses the same territory until the female lays the eggs (from 7 to 11 eggs between April and June). These are particular in that they are of a very intense green color, at the moment in which they are laid, and become, as the embryo matures, of a black color.

Other females can lay eggs in the same nest always leaving the male to do the hatching and in the end you can have a nest with even 15-25 eggs.

The female after the laying goes away and leaves to the male the task of the hatching and the subsequent growth of the chicks. During the whole period of the egg, the male remains without drinking, without eating, without defecating and rarely leaves the nest; it only emits loud cries often to defend its territory and discourage any intruders.

After about two months the eggs hatch and when the young are born they are well formed, weigh about half a kilo and after a few hours they are able to walk.

They have a plumage with brown and cream streaks along the length of the body, which remains so for about three months and this allows the chicks to be largely camouflaged to predators.

The male can also agree to raise chicks from other litters as long as they are not larger than his own.

During the growth of the young, the males are very aggressive and do not allow anyone to get close.

Generally the chicks stay with the male for about five months if the food and water conditions are optimal otherwise they can stay up to a year.After this period the chicks are completely independent and at the age of 2 they are already able to reproduce.


The emu is classified in the Red list of the IUNC 2009,2 among the animals at low risk of extinction LEAST CONCERN (LC), by virtue of the fact that it lives in such a vast range, that is to say in almost the entire Australian continent, that the its population is considered stable.


At the beginning of the century the emus did not enjoy great fame but were disliked by the local populations as they were great devourers of grain and crops in general. In fact, in 1932 there was the so-called "war of the emu" just to try to "eradicate" what was then considered a plague. Over time, a net hundreds of kilometers long has been set up to try to contain them, separating the emus from the cultivated areas of southwestern Australia.

They are very useful birds in keeping the population of grasshoppers and caterpillars under control.

In Australia there are numerous breeding of these birds as from them both the meat and the skin were extracted. Emu oil is also used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries while eggs have a market in furnishings as they are painted or otherwise worked in various ways.


The emu, together with the kangaroo, is present in the coat of arms of Australia as both are considered the symbol of the national fauna. Beyond these two animals there is a shield where the emblems of the six Australian states are depicted, all surrounded by a branch of golden mimosa which is the national floral emblem. This emblem was granted to Australia by George V.

The species Dromaius novaehollandiae is the only surviving species of the genus Dromaius.


  1. non-copyrighted image, courtesy of Sengkang:
  2. non-copyrighted image, courtesy of Papphase;
  3. non-copyrighted image, courtesy of Darkros.

Video: EMU, Dromaius novaehollandiae

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