Emu

Emu

Lifestyle

Though flightless, emus are fast runners, agile jumpers, and capable swimmers. These birds prefer to travel in pairs, but will occasionally forage in large flocks. They can travel long distances to reach feeding areas, and populations in Western Australia migrate seasonally (north in summer and south in winter), in search of food resources.

Emus communicate with one another through deep booms and grunts, particularly during the breeding season.

Food

Emus eat a variety of plants and fruits, depending on the season, as well as insects like grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. Eating pebbles and stones helps them digest plant matter. These birds serve an important role in the ecosystem through their diets, as they help to fertilize the soil with their seed-carrying droppings.

Life Cycle

Emus pair up in the summer to mate, and typically stay together through the fall, when the female lays her eggs. The two birds partner together in parenting, with the male building the nest and incubating the eggs for about two months. It’s a tough job for the emu dad, who will lose a third of his body weight during the incubation period as he gets up only to turn the eggs. He goes on to raise the chicks. Though they are able to leave the nest after just a few days, they will depend on him for lessons in finding food and avoiding predators, for up to 18 months.

Population Status & Threats

The emu is common throughout most of mainland Australia, but avoids areas with high human populations, dense forests, and deserts. Threats to small populations include habitat loss and fragmentation, collisions with vehicles, and predation of chicks and eggs by foxes, dogs, and feral pigs.