Wildlife - Emu close up - Credit: SATC/Angelo Gandolfi

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Emu

  • SUMMARY

The Emu is the largest bird native to Australia and the second-largest bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. The soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds reach up to 2m in height.

The Emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest and arid areas. Emus can travel great distances at a fast trot and can sprint at 50 km/h (30 mph) for some distance at a time. Their ability to run at high speeds is due to their highly specialised pelvic limb musculature. Their feet have only three toes and a similarly reduced number of bones and associated foot muscles; they are the only birds with gastrocnemius muscles in the back of the lower legs. The pelvic limb muscles of Emus have a similar contribution to total body mass as the flight muscles of flying birds. They are opportunistically nomadic and may travel long distances to find food; they feed on a variety of plants and insects.They weigh between 30 and 45 kilograms and have small vestigial wings and a long neck and legs.

Emus have brown to grey-brown plumage of shaggy appearance; the shafts and the tips of the feathers are black. A unique feature of the Emu feather is its double rachis emerging from a single shaft.