Emu

Emu

[ Dromaius novaehollandiae ]

Quick Facts

HEIGHT: 5 to 6 feet
WEIGHT:

up to 120 pounds

WILD DIET:
seeds, grasses, invertebrates, and small reptiles
ZOO DIET:
chopped apple, chopped leafy mix, lettuce, and bird pellets.
DISTRIBUTION: Australia
HABITAT: arid inland plains to tropical woodlands.

 

Birds of a Double Feather

 
Big Bird
Emus are Australia’s largest bird species and the second largest flightless bird in the world.  Related to kiwis, ostrich, cassowary, and rheas, a bulk of an emu’s size comes from their double plumed feathers, or two feathers coming out of one shaft.  This gives an emu the appearance of loose, yet voluminous shaggy plumage.  New feathers are almost black in color, but fade to grayish brown with the sun, leaving only the tips black.
 
Avian Athlete
Emus can run – while bouncing and swaying – at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.  With a running stride of over nine feet, their strong legs make up for their tiny, almost useless wings.  Even emus feet are made for running, equipped with three powerful toes attached to strong leg bones. Keen eyesight and amazing agility allow emus to escape almost any troublesome situation.  If necessary, an emu can even swim!
 
Stay-at-home Dads
Family roles are reversed in the emu world.  Males build a ground nest using twigs, leaves, and grass.  Females then lay between 5 and 15 eggs over a span of several days.  Then it’s the males’ turn again, as female emus leave the incubating up to the boys.  Prior to nest building, male emus spend their time bulking up for the breeding season and incubation by eating a diet high in protein – munching as many insects as possible!  Sitting on the nest for up to eight weeks, a male emu will lose 1/3 of their body weight, getting up from the nest only to turn over eggs 10 times a day.
 
Female emus are not monogamous and may have up to three mates a year, always leaving the male to incubate the clutch.  Emu chicks stay with their dad for up to 7 months, learning how to find food as well avoid predators. 
 
Emus at Brookfield Zoo
You can find emus in the yards adjacent to Australia House, where they spend their day foraging through the leaves and searching for insects.  One of their favorite activities is to take mud baths using large puddles wherever they’re available. 

Get Involved

Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society