Australian Native Birds - Emu

Emu - Mum

Emu - circa 1971 via 35 mm transparency.  Copyright - Agvulpes
Emu - circa 1971 via 35 mm transparency. Copyright - Agvulpes

The Emu

The Australian Emu (Dromaius novaehollaniae ) is Australia's largest bird just under the size of the Ostrich. Fortunately for us the Emu is not capable of flying but is able, and does, walk long distances to gather it's food. The Emu can also run quite fast when it needs to and has been clocked at speeds of 50 km per hour.

The Emu is unique as it features on the Australian Coat of Arms with our great Marsupial the Red Kangaroo. Would there be any other country in the world that would eat both of the animals that are it's Icons?

It is not widely known but Emu Oil is reported to have high levels of omega 3 and can be used as a skin moisturizer, anti-inflammatory for things like arthritis, sore muscles and joints that ache!

Emu chicks

Emu chicks looking for Mum - image taken 1971 and via 35mm transparency. Copyright -  Agvulpes
Emu chicks looking for Mum - image taken 1971 and via 35mm transparency. Copyright - Agvulpes

Emu - Quick Facts

Some quick facts about the Australian Emu:

  • The Emu although it has quite large wings is like the Ostrich and is Flightless.
  • Shares the spotlight on the Australian Coat of Arms with the Kangaroo.
  • Emus are quite tall and can measure 2 metres high.
  • The female emu can lay up to 20 eggs but most of the incubation is done by the male Emu.
  • The dad Emu as well as incubate the many eggs laid seems to tend the chicks when they are hatched.
  • The Emu chic has a striped looking 'down' but this disappears after the chic reaches about 4-5 months of age.
  • The Emus double shafted feathers are loose and tend to look floppy and shaggy but this helps the Emu cope more easily with the extreme in the climate.

Old Man Emu


A now famous and older John Williamson made the Emu famous when he wrote and sung the song titled Old Man Emu. It was done in the early 60s and since then John has gone on to be an Icon in the Australian music scene.

Emus Beware

Some time ago while Oliversmum and myself were holidaying on the Western Coast of Victoria and we stayed at a lovely town called Warrnambool. One day we decided to visit a National Park called 'Tower Hill' which is officially Victoria's youngest Volcano. Whilst driving through this park we noticed a flock of Emu and thinking that they were tame and being none the wiser we stopped for a closer inspection.... I will let Oliversmum tell you the story in her own words:

Hi all :) :) ... Agvulpes has asked me to say something about Australia's national bird the Emu. OK then this is just a little something to be aware of with Emu's.

As Agvulpes has said this real life story took place many years ago in a national park called Tower Hill, located in a lovely part of our home state Victoria, Australia.

We were driving through Tower Hill and came across this mob of Emus and decided to stop and watch them for a while, (btw In National Parks animals have ROW at all times) of course we remained in our car.

One particular Emu was getting very inquisitive about what I had in my hand (it was an ice cream) something that obviously smelled or looked very good.

I'm sure had the Park Rangers noticed what was going on, they would have politely told me that Ice Cream was not on the diet of an Emu! :)

Unfortunately for me that did not happen.

This Emu was getting pretty agro with me, and who was I to argue, being a lot taller and weighing a lot more than me, this Park was it's home and not mine, so I stupidly held out the Ice Cream to the Emu.... BIG MISTAKE...

The Emu latched on to my forefinger with it's beak and it was vice-like, it would not let go... The pain was excruciating,... eventually it did let go, but my finger was squashed flat, and until this very day it is still that way and my fingernail will not grow.

So the moral of the story is: Do not put your hand anywhere near an emu, although they are a magnificent bird be aware of what damage they can do with their beak and also their very powerful legs. Oliversmum. :) :).

There you go folks; 'straight from the horses mouth', so to speak. Hmm... not a good choice of words. Maybe should have said 'straight from the Emu's mouth' :-)

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Comments 48 comments

Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

You have an awsome and ecclectic array of wildlife in Australia,especially your national bird the Emu,thanks for sharing agvulpes.;)


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Very interesting story and facts about the emu, ag, thanks for sharing it all. Although I have never seen an emu in the flesh - ostriches, yes but emus, no - I know it very well. How? It was one of the first words I learned in crossword puzzles and it's often used because it has only 3 letters with 2 of them vowels.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Mentalist acer, I guess in a way we here in Australia are spoiled with the variety of native wildlife we have, virtually, sitting on our doorstep.

It is an unfortunate fact of life though, that our native fauna is at times being overrun by introduced species and 'urban spread'. It is only in relatively recent times that we have come to realize this and are at last doing something to alleviate the problem!

Thanks so much for sparing the time to come and have a look at our Iconic Emu :-)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@drbj, LOL we must have solved the same crossword puzzles! Words like emu, eft, newt and the like were words I knew before I realized the true meaning of the words!

Isn't it odd how we can associate something like a word, a smell or a vision with something totally unrelated?

Thanks for taking the time to drop by and sharing your thoughts with us :-)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A great hub and thanks for sharing.

Take care

Eiddwen


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Not a bad hub. Voted up. I liked the song. I once chased some emus to get a better photo of them. My dad told me I was lucky the lead emu didn't get mad, turn around and start chasing me. Knowing a little bit more nowadays about emus I can see how that could have happened. I never tried to feed an emu or tried to hide food from one or have one get interested in what I might be eating. I guess I was lucky there too.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Eiddwen thanks for taking the time to read about our native Emu. :-)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Rod thanks for the vote up:-) I think the song stands up pretty well even by today's standards!

I would love to have been there watching you chasing that Emu, was it in the bush or at a park? You were indeed very lucky, Emus can inflict quite an injury with their huge toe-nail. It is their main weapon of defense and the Emu can point their leg in any direction!

Thanks for sharing your anecdote, I love to hear about other peoples experiences :)


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 5 years ago from Southern California, USA

I will take your advice and never feed an emu ice cream. At least you have a unique story I am sure very few people could tell.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

The emus were in scrub land near Iluka, in the north of NSW. I am glad the leader decided it was better to keep his distance from humans with cameras.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Sweetiepie, lol I think it would be wise to not feed an Emu at all :-) As a matter of fact the Emu can go for ages without food or water:-)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Rod. Thanks for that info, from what I know the Emus up that way a bigger than our Emu and would not be quite as tame?


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I'd like to observe Emus in their natural habitat, but after reading Oliversmum's story I think that I would stay a safe distance away and use binoculars!


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Hi agvulpes, and Oliver's mom. As you may know we have a weekender in East Warby so Tower Hill will need to be visited. I haven't got a suit of Armour but i'll heed your warning. You should rub a bit of Emu oil on that finger so that the hub is nicely rounded off. Cheers from your neighbour. PS Will contact you when we have one of our Beatles parties.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@aliciaC because the Emu is such a large bird and being inquisitive at the same time they tend to become aggressive. However don't let that put you off. There are some Reserves around that have Emus wandering around freely. I must add though that normal safety precaution should always be observed.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@attemptedhumour, Yes East Warby is a great bush retreat!

I told oliversmum about your advise with the Emu Oil and she said.... No I won't tell you what she said lol.

If you want to see Emus you should visit the Healesville Sanctuary, its much closer than Tower Hill reserve.

btw the photos of the Emus you see above where taken at the Healesville Sanctuary some 40 years ago.

Mate. All jokes aside we really do love the Beatles, look forward to it!

Thanks for taking the time to drop in a comment!


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Emus in northern NSW are big but they are not dumb. They know that it is best to avoid humans and only attack when cornered. Or that's what I gather. In reserves they can afford to be inquisitive because they are being looked after by humans. In the wild the ones that survive know it is best to keep away.


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

I've been to the sanctury many times, but not tower hill. We use the emu oil, a sure sign of old age creeping up. Cheers mates.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Rod lol What you say sure proves that the Emu must be highly intelligent. How many species, that we know of, have been pushed to extinction just by coming into contact with we Humans?


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@attemptedhumor, we have used emu oil ourselves, old age... you are only a spring chicken :-)

FYI here is a link with information about Tower Hill that you may find interesting:

http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?pa...

Cheers :-)


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Yes, a lot of species, agvulpes, have reached extinction as you have suggested. The kangaroo rat, the bilby and the frill-necked lizard for a start are way down in numbers. The koala is the most famous case. Then there is the Tasmanian Devil though that is only partly our fault. They are being ravaged by a terrible disease.

Birds usually fair a bit better because we love and admire them and they are more adaptable. There have been experiments at creating emu farms. The theory is that if we breed them for meat and oil and feathers and eggs then they can't possibly go extinct. Hey! It works for cattle and sheep.

Mind you the cane toad, introduced into Australia by stupid humans, has made its way from Queensland into NSW and will no doubt be in Victoria by the end of this decade. Birds of prey are being poisoned by it as well as animals of prey. And we humans are responsible.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Rod, I could not agree with you more! Other than add to the list of introduced species that have ruined the resources so needed by our own native animals. I bring to mind just a few such as the Rabbit, the cute but very much a pest Sparrow and the Indian Mynah I believe is now called Common Mynah just to name a few.

It is interesting that the experiment of farming Emus is taking place, I believe that other farming experiments of exotic animals has not fared all that well?

I did notice that the Cane Toad is advancing on Victoria!

I hope it is too cold for them to survive our winters :-)


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

They tried farming kangaroos for a while there but it has been a long time since I have read anything to do with that. I therefore get the impression it didn't go so well.

It was argued that the Cane Toad would have a difficult time with NSW winters but it appears more able to adapt than was first thought. Still one can hope.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

You sparked my interest and I have done some research on the Kangaroo industry in Australia. This research indicates that the Kangaroo industry as of July 2008 generates nearly $300 million and there are over 4000 people directly employed in Australia.

It appears that there is no actual 'farms' for Kangaroo but harvesting is carried out on a regular basis. In fact according to DES figures there were over 4,000,000 kangaroos harvested through NSW, Q'land, SA and WA, in 2009 alone. (yes, that is 4 million)

Cane Toads in Victoria, yuk I may have to take up Golf again :-)


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Just as long as it isn't indiscriminate slaughter of kangaroos. I know that culling is necessary in time of drought as much for the kangaroos as for the farmers. Sounds like a big industry you have uncovered. The farming idea probably went south because you can't herd kangaroos like you do sheep.

Cane Toads love golf courses. Hmmm! I see where you are headed. The proper iron and you might send them back into NSW. The proper iron and I might send them back into Queensland. Every year at Yamba there is a cane toad round up. The cane toads caught are placed in dry ice containers to freeze. It is said to be a humane way of killing them. Sometimes I don't like to think of it that way.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

Indiscriminate! That I can't say but it does seem a lot of Kangaroos are being slaughtered for profit. However the permit system is being run by the appropriate Government department so we can only hope that it will balance out!

I believe the preferred club of choice is either a '5' or a '7' iron!

I've been told that if you use a 'wood' they are very hard to clean... :-)

Can you tell me if there is a bounty on the cane toad ?


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

The 7 iron sounds about right. No, you're right, never use a wood.

I don't believe there is a bounty but there is a small industry that has turned dead cane toads into items to be sold in shops. You want a dried out stuffed cane toad as a doorstop or as a paperweight? No problem. I'm sure you'll find one on line unless this particular industry has stopped altogether.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

A stuffed dead cane toad. Wow now that does conjure up images in my mind :)

I'm not sure how a cane toad as a door stop would fit into the 'feng shui' layout. Or whether I would want the beady eyes of a cane toad looking at me while it was holding down my papers. lol


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Well agvulpes once they're dead they might as well be stuffed.

You might have to ask a Chinese scholar about Cane Toads and feng shui. As for my home, I have papers and books everywhere. No dead cane toads, though.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

LOL I'll leave that one alone...

Hmmm... you seem to have the same sort of home/office as myself. Papers here... Books there... and nary a Cane Toad in sight :-)


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 5 years ago

The Emu can be seen running around Texas these days - was a craze a few years ago and people let them go when they couldn't afford them after the meat never took off. Great source of protein they say. Just doesn't seem right to have the Australian national bird running around Texas does it.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

Wow, the Australian Native bird the emu running around the State of Texas? If the terrain is anything like Australia the wild emu will thrive and become a pest.

Billy if you are confronted by an emu do not trust it one bit. Emu's have a vicious beak and equally dangerous feet!

Thanks for sharing that with us!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

agvulpes: sorry about the smushed finger...it must have seemed like part of the delicious thing that was being carried ... i had a large monkey jump on me as i walked through as park in Japan as I was carrying a soft drink..bad idea...so i kind of understand that experience...i keep coming back here to read as i vicariously journey to Austrailia...thank you for sharing...


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 4 years ago from Australia Author

I agree I think the Emu thought the finger was part of the offered morsel!

We had a similar experience with monkeys whilst driving in SA.

Thanks for your kind comment :-)


billips profile image

billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

Enjoyed this article on another amazing bird - lots of useful information - loved Williamson's song too - B.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 4 years ago from Australia Author

B- thanks for dropping by and leaving such a nice comment :-)

For those who don't know John Williamson is 'True Blue' Aussie and is one of Australia's folk singing icons.


lex123 profile image

lex123 4 years ago

Glad to read about Emu, Australian native bird. I love watching emus, especially the way they walk. Thanks for sharing this beautiful hub.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 4 years ago from Australia Author

G'day lex I agree that the Australian Native bird the Emu has an unusual walk and once it gets going when it runs it seems to float on air :-)

Thanks for dropping by and commenting :-)


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Very entertaining and well illustrated story. Let's hear more about your birds.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 4 years ago from Australia Author

My wife's finger is still showing the effects :)

I am indeed working on showing more of our unique Australian native birds :-)


Veronica 4 years ago

i need some help mr emu guy. im doing an assignment and need to know what the image and reality is of australian emus can you help please :)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 4 years ago from Australia Author

G'day Veronica! There are many sources of information available about the Australian Native Bird - Emu .

Depending on the depth of research you want to go?

The ABC has a basic information page at http://www.abc.net.au/schoolstv/animals/EMUS.htm

The NSW government has a page on Emus at:http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/theemu.h...

Or you could be adventurous and type in 'Emu' at the Google search bar:)

Thanks for dropping by :-)


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago

agvulpes, this is really an interesting hub. I visited an emu ranch her in Texas, USA. I learned a lot about the emu and wrote about them in What are Green Eggs and Ham.

Voted up-interesting and shared.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 3 years ago from Australia Author

SES - thanks for dropping by and leaving your kind comment. I just wonder why they would be farming Emus in Texas. I have heard that Emu Oil is very useful for certain things.

Thanks again for the share :)


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 18 months ago from Home Sweet Home

a simple hub for birds. Our native bird is called hornbills, there is a horn on top of the beak.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 18 months ago from Australia Author

@peachpurple the hornbill sounds very much like a bird we have here called a Cassowary which also has a big horn like lump on it's head ?


CorneliaMladenova profile image

CorneliaMladenova 9 months ago from Cork, Ireland

Really beautiful bird. I have seen Emu in our Dublin zoo, really charming creature :)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 9 months ago from Australia Author

@CorneliaMladenova yes the Emu can be charming but they love to sneak up and peck away at your lunch lol

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