of Ratites (Flightless Birds)
This mysterious WORLD of flightless birds is represented by the Emu, considered
the largest flightless bird with smallest wings.
Common Name: Emu
Genus/Species: Dromaius novaehollandiae
Eucalypti forest, woodland, mallee, heartland and desert shrublands and
Physical appearance may slightly vary depending on geographic area. World's second largest living bird, 5 - 6 feet tall. It is the largest flightless bird
with the smallest wings. Sexes are similar, brown to black plumage, except during the
egg-laying period when the female's head and neck which are normally naked and
bluish in color, are densely covered with black feathers. The body feathers form a loose,
hair-like covering because the barbs of individual feathers do not interlock. No uropygial (oil) gland. Legs are long, unfeathered, with
nine-foot stride when running.
Three-toed feet, the underside of each toe flattened with a broad pad. Wings are very small. In hot conditions, wings are held out
from the side and the bare underarm with its blood vessels, is exposed to
facilitate evaporative cooling. Bill is broad and soft, adapted for browsing and
grazing. Guttural grunt and a throbbing drum (called booming), most commonly
used by the male in the two to three months prior to egg-laying. Female produces drumming sound
towards end of incubation. Both
sexes drum when alarmed. Life span is up to 30 years in captivity.
Breeding season is usually May - August in Australia. Most breeding units are a single
pair. Nest is a low platform of
twigs or leaves, generally placed so that the bird has clear outlook, often
downhill. The Male does not begin
incubation until 5 - 9 eggs are laid.
Clutches average 9 - 12 eggs, each weighing 1 to 1 ½ pounds. The Male incubates the eggs for 8
weeks and hardly leaves the nest to eat or drink during this time. The young are
precocial and leave the nest in 2 – 3 days, feeding extensively on vegetation
and insects. Males become very
aggressive when the chicks hatch driving Females and other intruders away.
The young are cared for by the Male
exclusively for about 5-7 months. Emu are of breeding age at 2-3 years old.
STATUS in Natural Habitat:
Diminishing to threatened and stable in its natural habitat.
Emus can run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
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