Description: The emu is a large, feathered flightless bird termed a "ratite" from Australia. Other members of the "ratite" group include ostriches, cassowaries and kiwis. It is the second largest bird in Australia and the third largest bird in the world. Only the ostrich and cassowary are larger than the emu. Emu's were imported into the United States from the 1930's through the late 1950's as exotic zoo stock. Today, the exportation of live birds and eggs is prohibited from Australia. Exports of processed emu products from Australia, however, are on the rise as emu begins to gain acceptance worldwide for its unique qualities. Emus are raised throughout the United States and have adapted to a variety of conditions in North America ranging from the cold winters of North Dakota to the extreme heat of southern Texas.
Emus are very fast and can run up to speeds of 30 miles per hour (50 kilometers per hour). Emus are also very good swimmers. This huge bird naturally lives in groups together called flocks. Emu flocks are found where there are grasslands savannas or grasslands with some trees, and the Australian bush. Emu's live to be 20 to 30 years old. The curious birds are born with black and white striped feathers but are tan, brown, and black as adults. The genus and species names of the emu are Dromaius novaehollandiae.
Anatomy: Emu grow to be between 5 and 6 fee tall and weighing between 90 and 150 pounds. This makes the emu the size of most humans as adults.
Reproduction: Emus normally breed as pairs. The female emu or hen begins laying eggs as early as 16 to 18 months of age, but laying normally begins at two to three years. Emu lay large green eggs between November and March in the United States each year. Emu can be productive for as long as 20 years, laying between 20 to 50 eggs in a season. The emu egg varies in size and color. It is usually dark green, averaging 5 inches long and weighing approximately 600 grams. Artificial incubation is often conducted at a temperature of approximately 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit and a relative humidity that varies according to the climate. Average incubation time ranges from 48 to 56 days.
In nature, the emu's nest is a shallow hole by a bush. The nest is lined with leaves, grass, and bark. The female lays from 4 to 20 greenish-brown eggs in a clutch or group of eggs laid at one time. Chicks hatch after an incubation period of about 8 weeks. The male incubates or keeps the eggs warm and cares for the chicks for about one and a half years.
Diet: Emus are primarily herbivores or plant eaters. They eat grass, seeds, flowers, young plants and fruits. They also eat insects including caterpillars. They swallow small stones called gastoliths or gizzard stones as do all birds which stay in the gizzard and help grind up food.