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Emu Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

what is the emu

Breeding takes place in May and June, and fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several clutches of eggs in one season. The male does the incubation; during this process he hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season. The male incubates the eggs for 56 days, during which time he does not eat or drink.

Because young emus consume large quantities of caterpillars and grasshoppers, and adults eat burrs that entangle sheep wool, some farmers and ranchers find emus helpful. However, emus may stamp down wheat fields, eat large quantities of grain and jump over barbed wire fences. Breeding pairs form in the summer months of December and January and mating occurs in the cooler months of May and June. An Emus breeding behaviour incorporates male incubation, this is because the male experiences hormone changes.

what is the emu

But beyond that, emus are pretty energetic, so they love running and jumping around. Of course, they need ample space to run and jump all over the place. Emus are about 2-3 times the size of ducks and chickens, so your regular coop will not make do as a shelter for them. The emu is an important cultural icon of Australia, appearing on the coat of arms and various coinages. The bird features prominently in Indigenous Australian mythologies.

A few stay to defend the male on the nest, using their loud, booming call. Males are aggressive when the chicks hatch, driving the remaining females away and attacking anything else that approaches the nest. Newly hatched chicks weigh 15.5 to 17.6 ounces (440 to 500 grams). The male stays with the chicks for about five to seven months. Lost chicks from other broods are allowed to join another male’s group, if they are smaller than his own offspring.

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The nest, made of leaves, grass and bark is a shallow depression next to low brush. During incubation, which lasts 56 days, the male doesn’t eat, drink or defecate. Once the male starts sitting, most females leave the territory, sometimes pairing with other males and laying further clutches.

This is especially vital if the emu fathers will incubate the eggs. At the least, a pair of emus need 3000 square feet of space. However, some breeders raise emu pairs in 1000 square feet of space. For the next 8 weeks after the eggs have been laid, the male will sit on the nest, carefully turning the eggs around 10 times each day.

  1. That being said, emus need an enclosure in a natural, open environment.
  2. In response, on November 2, Australia deployed the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery with machine guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.
  3. During incubation, which lasts 56 days, the male doesn’t eat, drink or defecate.

You could build a lovely shaded barn for them, and they will never step in it. So, when creating a space for emus, only prioritize the essentials. Before mating, the female makes dull, rattling, drum-like sounds, and the male builds a nest in his territory where the female later joins him.

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An emu shelter should also contain a heat source to keep the birds warm in winter. Then in summer, there should be an accessible water source. If there are no trees in the provided space, you may want to create a shed or similar shelter for your emus.

what is the emu

Its long, powerful legs, though, allow it to run up to about 30 miles (50 kilometers) per hour. Each emu foot has three forward-facing toes that allow it to grip the ground, thrusting the bird forward. A powerful kick is also handy for keeping predators at bay. Emus are farmed for their oil, leather and meat, however, emus are common birds with an estimated population of around 725,000. Emu populations vary from decade to decade depending on rainfall.

Fences can help fend off emus, but not all farmers want to keep emus away. Some farmers see the birds as beneficial because they eat the burrs that entangle sheep wool as well as caterpillars and grasshoppers. There have been other attempts to shoot or poison large numbers of emus over the years, but the birds have proven resilient and resourceful.

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An emu father may lose a third of his body weight while incubating his eggs. He becomes aggressive once his chicks hatch, chasing away any females in his territory (including the mother) and attacking any perceived threat to his nest. Female emus compete for access to males, while males build the nest and wait to be courted. Once a pair has mated, the female lays a clutch of eggs in the male’s nest over several days. Their necks and legs are long, but their wings are tiny, reduced to less than 8 inches (20 centimeters).

“They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks.” For such a bulky bird, however, their wings are surprisingly puny. Without the need for flight, the emu’s wings have been reduced to less than 8 inches (20 centimeters), or about the size of a human hand. While emus can resist intense cold, they should be kept dry under these conditions or they may suffer from frostbite. Also, while emus have feathers that protect them from the sun, they need ready access to water.

Emus range over large areas, foraging on fruits, seeds, plant shoots, small animals, animal droppings, and insects. They mate and nest over the Australian winter, and it’s not always a loving affair—­­females have been known to fight viciously over unpaired males. The common emu is the only survivor of several forms exterminated by European settlers. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the common emu as a species of least concern. Ecological studies estimate that there are more than 630,000 adult emus and note that emu populations are likely stable.

Those unique legs can take enormous strides, enabling emus to run at speeds up to 30 mph (48 kph). Emus also have an impressive vertical leap, which can quickly carry the large birds up to 6.8 feet (2.1 meters) off the ground — all without the help of wings. And while they generally only enter the water when necessary, they are reportedly strong swimmers.