A highlight of our travels is learning more about Australian flora and fauna, and the emu is just one fascinating example. It features prominently on the Australian ‘Coat of Arms’, and was apparently chosen along with the kangaroo as a symbol of Australia moving forward – especially given that neither animal can move backwards easily!
Their chick-rearing practices are different from many other bird species, and have earned the females a reputation for ‘shabby female behaviour‘! The larger female bird takes the dominant role in selecting a partner and once the days start getting shorter in April, the pair mates each day or two. Mum lays an egg every 2nd or 3rd day in a large, low flat nest.
Then Dad becomes broody and loses interest in mating, even becoming aggressive towards Mum. So she and her fellow females wisely wander off into the bush and leave all the dads to do what they do best! The males are certainly dedicated to the task as they don’t move from the nest for the next 7-8 weeks until the chicks hatch. During this time Dad doesn’t eat or drink, just lives off his fat and any nearby dew on the grass. The only time he stands up is to turn the 10-20 eggs in the nest several times a day.
The chicks emerge mostly emerge in July and August, and Dad continues to raise the hatchlings to their maturity at 12-18 months.
Watching these tall flightless birds move in the wild with their feathers flouncing is a beautiful experience, and they regularly reach speeds up to 50 or more kms per hour.
In contrast, it is tragic to see so many end up as road kill, which we noted mostly in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia where they are so prolific.
Emus are also fond of swimming in fresh water or the sea – check them out cooling off at Monkey Mia recently.
We have heard some funny stories about their inquisitive nature – for example, poking their heads through your car window to say hello to your startled children!
Do you have a story to share?!