Emu – The Largest Bird Native To Australia

by Larry Jordan on September 26, 2010

Emu photos by Larry Jordan

The Emu is the second largest living bird in the world by height, second only to the Ostrich.  It is also the largest bird native to Australia1.  They can be rather intimidating when they are close up and looking at you eye to eye.

On my way to do some maintenance on the artificial Burrowing Owl habitat we installed in Anderson last spring, I spotted a pair of Emu grazing in a large open field.  I decided it would be an excellent photo opportunity so I pulled off the main road, onto a side street and turned into a cul de sac.  There was a smaller open field on one side and an industrial building of some sort on the other, and a four foot fence in front of me.

As I was pulling up to park near the fence, I couldn’t help but notice that the birds that had been hundreds of yards away from me were now nearly at the fence!  Emus can trot great distances very quickly and reach speeds of 30 mph!  By the time I got out of the car with my digiscoping gear, they were too close to photograph.  I quickly replaced the scope with my 80 – 400mm lens as the pair watched with curiosity.

These birds can reach six feet tall and weight over 100 pounds and their plumage will vary in color due to environmental factors, giving the bird a natural camouflage1.  Note how this Emu blends in with the surrounding grassland.

The male and female of the species are nearly identical, the female being a bit larger than the male.  As a departure from the norm, the female Emu courts the male.  She will circle him and give a drumming call (I’m sorry but you must have Real Player to hear.  It was the only audio clip I could find of this haunting call).

This female began strutting around and drumming.  Notice how her neck is pulled back and her feathers are more erect as she makes the beautiful drumming call.

I really enjoyed watching them interact but I guess, since I didn’t have any food for them, they decided to return to their foraging and slowly wandered away.

I did find a cool video of Emus dancing though.

I think they are cute (just look at that do), but they can be intimidating an possess a powerful defense mechanism using their legs, and feet with sharp claws, to kick.

All the information on the Emu in this post was gleaned from Wikipedia (with loads more information) but here are a few other good sources: Unique Australia Animals, the San Diego Zoo, and the Internet Bird Collection.

References: 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emu

For more interesting bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly and don’t forget to send me your submission for the next IATB by Tuesday!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bird Feeders September 26, 2010 at 11:03 am

Thanks for sharing these great Emu photographs! They are an amazingly fast bird; while living in the Australian outback studying Spotted Bowerbirds I would routinely drive my Land Cruiser through large agricultural fields. It was not uncommon to find my truck flanked on either side by 5-8 emus running through the fields and matching my speed. They would keep up with me even if I was going 40+ mph; very impressive! But, I may have to disagree with your comment regarding their cuteness, especially after hearing their guttural, grunting calls. Thanks for the great post!


Mick September 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

Interesting descriptions and photos. They look even better when they are running freely in outback Australia. No fences to keep them in!


Larry September 26, 2010 at 8:30 pm

@Bird Feeders sounds like a great time in Australia. I will have to go there someday. I still think they’re cute 😉

@Mick I was hoping to get some feedback from some of you folks in Australia. I have seen some video of the birds running freely there. Incredible!


Jill September 27, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Nice, Larry! Love the shots you got, what a cool bird. There were a couple that lived next door to us in Texas, but they were far from friendly!


NatureFootstep September 28, 2010 at 6:28 am

lol, that video really made me grin. So much fun to watch. That is a strange looking bird for sure.


Carole M. November 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

certainly bought a smile to my face; the first and the last have a comical look. Strange looking birds aren’t they? And yes, the drumming….


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