Aussie ABC – E is for Emu!

Last Updated on September 15, 2014 by Red Nomad OZ

Emus near Quilpie, Outback Queensland

The Australian emu*(Dromaius novaehollandiae**) is arguably the most highly evolved bird on the planet.  Or perhaps even in the universe!

But whether or not you agree may well depend on your gender …

After mating, the female emu sticks around just long enough to lay the eggs, with the male in attendance night and day.  Then she’s off to the fleshpots of emu-land to repeat the experience, sometimes mating several times a season!  Her offspring will never see her – unless by accident, of course!

The mail emu incubates the eggs by sitting on them for eight weeks – and sacrifices himself by neither eating nor drinking during this time.  Then he raises the newly-hatched chicks to adulthood – for at least 6 months, although often until the next breeding season.

That’s Dad, not Mum with these emu chicks in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges!

So images like this show DAD with the chicks, Mum being long gone and likely to have spawned at least one more family by the time the chicks are this size!

A deadly beak, and even deadlier scimitar-like toe-nail protect the emu from its natural predators like the Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) – but also gives them their legendary disregard for fences thus triggering a new predator, the Human (homo sapiens, sub-species farmer).

And while it can’t outdo the ostrich for size, it IS the second largest bird in the world (by height) at up to 2 metres (6.6 feet) – so it can be disconcerting to have one hovering around your barbie waiting for a snag***, or sticking it’s head through your open car window!!  Well, they ARE known for their curiosity …

Emu chicks in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

 So how to rid yourself of unwanted emu attention?  Waving something white at them may well be an urban myth, but it worked for us while bird-watching at Bowra Sanctuary in south-western Queensland.  Do NOT, however, rely on this method to repel their advances, as other factors (such as eau-de-campfire) may have also been in play …

It’s not clear whether the emu depicted as a co-supporter of the Australian Coat of Arms (along with the kangaroo) is a female!  But it may well be, as many of it’s peculiar behavioural characteristics seem to have been adopted to a certain degree by successive governments …

Gender may be less of a factor in whether or not you agree with THAT!

*  Pronounced ‘EEM – you’
**  According to Wikipedia, this means ‘fast footed New Hollander’ (New Holland being, of course, the name by which Australia was first identified on maps after discovery by Abel Tasman in 1644)
***  Translation – ‘… your Barbecue waiting for a sausage’

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  1. @Manzanita – they’re pretty scary in the wild. And the green is pretty cool too – there’s been so much rain, even the desert is green this year!!! I’m glad you blamed rambling on grass growing rather than my blog though …

  2. I’ve only seem emus behind tall fences but it sounds like they are not a favorite to most people.
    You Aussies do have a variety of everything. Colors galore too. I suppose you do need things for amusement when rained in. “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” We’ve had it here too. I can actually watch the grass grow before my eyes. Grass blades love it.
    Sorry, I’ve taken to rambling. That’s what happens when you watch grass grow. 🙂
    Love and peace

  3. @JE – couldn’t we learn a lot from them!!
    @Sailor – thanx!
    @Mary – So have they got it right? Or wrong?? Maybe they’ve stayed the same and other creatures have had the reversal! Stop, my head’s spinning!!!
    @Lilly – you’ll be dynamite if this ever comes up at quiz nites!!!
    @SFlaGuy – I’m a mine of (some would say useless) information!!!

  4. @Andrew – Google told me, therefore it must be so!! Actually, it’s in all the bird books too … and the day you stop being nervous around emus is the day you should watch your back!
    @Betty – so how highly evolved are you? Do you take after the male? Or the female??
    @Magsx2 – Haha, that’s what I thought!!!
    @Dianne – hey, didn’t know that! Now who would have thought penguins and emus had anything in common??!!

  5. @River – I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them!! They’re wild – so while they might look cute when they stick their heads in the car window, they are quite dangerous!!
    @PDP – it sure works for me!
    @Windsmoke – HHHMMMmmm… the vision of an emu with lung cancer doesn’t quite compute!
    @Ann O’Dyne – WOW! I’ve never been on an emu shoot! Actually, never been on an anything shoot … Male & female emus are hard enough to tell apart in real life, let alone the COA drawings! So the answer to #1? Well, is OZ a masterclass in irresponsibility, or a nanny state?? And #2? My psychic powers aren’t quite strong enough to divine the answer!

  6. Dang the chickens down under are big. How in the world do you know so much about Emu’s and everything else???

  7. WoW – great information and so interesting – luv the part where Mom takes off and leaves hubby home to raise kidz. ha,ha
    Great Photos and I really enjoyed reading about Emus, now I feel most informed. 🙂

  8. What fascinating stuff! I never knew any of that before reading your post. I wonder what in their evolutionary past triggered the role reversal. Good to know. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  9. Those female emu’s have got it all worked out – I think Emperor penguins are similar – the male penguin incubate the eggs for about 115 days standing huddled in the freezing cold- whilst wifey is off doing other stuff!

    Love reading yourinterestin posts. Keep safe.

  10. wonderful post and photo!
    …and thanks for the great laugh!

    i have never ever seen those birds…so thanks for sharing.

    happy week ahead!
    betty xx

  11. You’ve made that name up, I’m sure. I can’t say I have ever heard emus proper name. I am nervous around emus, but I hold their gaze and pretend I am not. So far so good.

  12. “so how to rid yourself of unwanted emu attention?” … well in 1960 in SESA out of Kingston, Uncle Frank had a Jeep and a .303 and he used to throw us kids in it and drive straight up and over yuccas blasting away at the emus and we LOVED IT. better than the Big Dipper.

    So, given the fascinating story of emu parenting, which sex-emu is honoured with Skippy on our AUS coat of arms? The I’m Off mum, or the House-Husband?
    and Q2: was Our Germaine inspired to write Female Eunuch when she read about emancipated emu mums?

  13. Seen an Emu pluck a cigarette right out of a visitors hand at the Melbourne Zoo once, the Emu started to eat the cigarette but spat it out when he/she reached the burning tip, Ouch! :-).

  14. Hilarious Red, that cheered this very chilly day up immensely. Those female emus sure have things worked out well haha!!

  15. I’m not a fan of emus. When we lived in Puckapunyal, surrounded by bushland, those buggers, and kangaroos too, would often be seen in the parking lot of the local shopping centre about half a minute walk from our house.
    The cheeky birds were known to take sandwiches from the hands of four year olds and then chase him around the carpark to home when he didn’t have any more. Unlike the kangaroo which didn’t chase him but instead swiped him across the head leaving a cut just above his ear.

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