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The emu is the second-biggest living bird by stature, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the biggest local winged animal and the main surviving individual from the family Dromaius. The emu’s range covers the vast majority of Australia.
See the fact file below for more information on the emu or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Emu worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The biggest emu’s can reach up to 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) in height.
- Estimated from the bill to the tail, emus extend in length from 139 cm to 164 cm (55 to 65 in).
- The average length of males is 148.5 cm and the average length of females is 156.8 cm.
- The weight of adult emus lies in the range of 18-60 kg (39-132 lb).
- Females are typically somewhat bigger than males and are considerably larger in the rear end.
- Albeit flightless, emus have small wings, around 20 cm long, and each wing has a small hook at the tip.
- Emus fold their wings when running, maybe as a method for balancing while moving quickly.
- They have long necks and legs, and can run at rates of up to 48 km/h (30 mph).
- Their feet have just three toes, and a decreased number of bones and related foot muscles.
- The neck of the emu is light blue and shows through its sparse covering of feathers.
- They have dark brown plumage with a shaggy appearance.
- The eyes of an emu are protected by a nictitating membrane.
- A unique feature of the emu quill is the two-fold rachis rising up out of a single shaft.
- There is a large population living on the eastern side of Australia.
- Emus live in different environments over Australia, both inland and close to the sea.
- Emus predominately travel in groups. In fact, they can form huge groups.
- There is a large population living on the eastern side of Australia.
- Emus are also found in New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines.
- They are mostly commonly found in territories of savannah forest and sclerophyll (wooded) forest, and least commonly found in densely populated regions and dry areas.
- Emus are known to travel long distances in order to find an area that has enough food.
- In Western Australia, emu movements follow a distinct seasonal pattern – north in summer and south in winter.
- On the east coast, their wanderings seem to be more random and do not appear to follow a set pattern.
- Emus are omnivores.
- The diet depends upon seasonal accessibility to plants, with the Acacia, Casuarina, and grasses being favoured.
- They also eat bugs and different arthropods, including grasshoppers and crickets, cockroaches, ladybirds, bogong, cotton-boll moth hatchlings, ants, arachnids, and millipedes.
- In Western Australia, food preferences have been observed in traveling emus: they eat seeds from Acacia aneura until the rains arrive, after which they move on to fresh grass shoots and caterpillars.
- In winter, they feed on the leaves and pods of Cassia, and in spring, they consume grasshoppers and the fruit of Santalum acuminatum, a sort of quandong.
- They are also known to feed on wheat, and any fruit or other crops that they can access, easily climbing over high fences if necessary.
- Smalls stones are swallowed to aid the crushing and digestion of plant material.
- Emus drink infrequently, yet drink large amounts when they are able to.
- They typically drink once a day, first inspecting the water body and surrounding area in groups before kneeling down at the edge to drink.
- Emus in captivity have been known to eat shards of glass, marbles, vehicle keys, jewelry, nuts and bolts, and other shiny objects.
- They are also known to eat charcoal, although the reason for this is unclear. One possible reason is to absorb toxins.
Relationship with humans
- Emus were utilized as a source of nourishment by indigenous Australians and early European pilgrims.
- Emus are inquisitive birds and have been known to approach humans if they see unexpected movement of a limb or piece of clothing. In the wild, they may follow and observe people.
- Aboriginal Australians used a variety of techniques to catch the birds, including spearing them while they drink at waterholes, catching them in nets, attracting them by imitating their calls, or by arousing their curiosity with a ball of feathers and rags dangled from a tree.
- Native Australians hunted emus out of need, and disliked the birds being hunted for sport or any other reason.
- An extreme example of this was the Emu War in Western Australia in 1932.
- An endeavor to drive emus off was mounted, with the military brought in to kill them using automatic rifles. The emus, to a great extent, maintained a strategic distance from the shooters and won the fight.
- Every part of the emu carcass has some use: the fat is harvested for its valuable, multiple-use oil, the bones are shaped into knives and tools, the feathers are used for body adornment and the tendons can be substituted for string.
Reproduction and offspring
- Emus form breeding pairs during the summer months of December and January, and may remain together for about five months.
- Mating typically happens between April and June; the exact timing is determined by the climate as the birds nest during the coolest part of the year.
- The male forms a rough home of twigs, leaves, and grass on the ground where the female lays 5 to 15 avocado-green eggs.
- Afterwards, the female leaves and males incubate the eggs.
- Males stays for the next eight weeks and loses up to one-third of its body weight.
- They stand about 12 cm (5 in) tall at first, weigh 0.5 kg (17.6 oz), and have distinctive brown and cream stripes for camouflage, which fade after three months or so.
- The male guards the growing chicks for up to seven months, teaching them how to find food.
- Chicks grow very quickly and are fully grown in five to six months.
- They may remain with their family group for another six months or so before they split up to breed in their second season.
- Emus are diurnal birds and spend their day foraging, preening their plumage with their beak, dust bathing and resting.
- They are generally gregarious birds apart from the breeding season, and while some forage, others remain vigilant to their mutual benefit.
- They are able to swim when necessary, although they rarely do so unless the area is flooded or they need to cross a river.
- Emus start to settle down at nightfall and sleep during the night.
The vocalizations of emus generally comprise of different grunting and snorting sounds.
On very hot days, emus pant to maintain their body temperature, their lungs work as evaporative coolers and, unlike some other species, the resulting low levels of carbon dioxide in the blood do not appear to cause alkalosis.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about emu across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Emu worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the emu which is the second-biggest living fledgling by stature, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the biggest local winged animal and the main surviving individual from the family Dromaius. The emu’s range covers the vast majority of Australia.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Emu Facts
- Born to run
- Missing Words
- Emu vs Ostrich
- Emu word hunt
- Fun facts
- True or false?
- Emu Profile
- Answer the questions
- Emu land
- My Emu Gallery
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Link will appear as Emu Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 5, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.