What’s This Post About?
An EMU is the second largest bird globally and the tallest bird in Australia. The main question that arises often is; where are these large birds found? Naturally, we won’t find them lurking around the roads amidst mainstream traffic, and neither do the birds fly.
Despite being abundantly found in Australia, unlike other birds, EMU is not a species that will randomly wander into your yard or be found lurking near your feeder.
There are specific areas where these birds live, but that does not mean that you may not see one at all unintentionally. For example, most people see EMUs behind fences and other barriers on roadsides.
Except for Tasmania, EMUs may be found in all Australian states. They may be found across much of Victoria; however, they avoid heavily populated regions and are rarely seen in the city. EMUs may be found in a wide range of environments, from open desert plains to tropical forests.
EMU Country-wise Distribution
EMUs can only be found in Australia. They may be found over most of the continent, from coastal areas to high snowy mountains. They are very transient, with a range that encompasses the majority of the continent.
Australia’s environment has evolved throughout thousands of years, and the animals that dwell here, such as EMUs, have altered as well. Long periods of wetter or drier weather and lower or higher sea levels have affected the nation.
EMUs have moved inwards across central Australia in the last 6,000 years, according to findings. Modifications derived primarily by climate have substantially increased the range of the EMU, which is expected to stay constant for the next 50 years.
EMUs were previously present in Tasmania, but they were wiped off by Europeans soon after they arrived. On Kangaroo Island and King Island, two dwarf EMU species were also found earlier, but they became extinct as well.
Why Do EMU Move?
They wonder about their home area depending on the weather; however, they will remain in one spot if food supplies are plentiful.
Climate change causes EMUs to migrate within their range. Birds will congregate in one location if there is enough food and water.
EMUs travel as needed to locate suitable situations when their current residence supplies are more unpredictable. They have been known to travel hundreds of kilometers each day, often at speeds of 15 to 25 kilometers per day.
Emus migrate in a manner that corresponds to recent rainfall. They appear to be most influenced by the sighting of rain-bearing clouds, but they may take a hint from auditory cues from storms and the scent of damp ground.
Human farming may also cause EMU migrations. EMUs have been allowed to spread into areas where they were previously barred from due to a water shortage thanks to the development of artificial but continuous watering sites in the Australian interior, where cattle and sheep graze.
Open plains are an EMUs preferred habitat. However, they may also be found in snowfields, woods, and savannah forests. They rarely live in densely populated areas, jungles, rainforests, or desert regions.
However, in more arid places, they can be found due to two main reasons. First is when significant rains have fostered the development of plants and grasses and heavy fruiting of bushes. Secondly, if stable water supplies for cattle have been made, they will increase in number.
EMU Moving Behavior
EMUs are a migratory species. Although they may create large flocks, they generally migrate in pairs. In addition, they migrate in a seasonal pattern, generally north in the summer and south in the winter, while eastern EMUs appear to have no such tendency.
When the situation calls for it, EMUs can swim. They do not fear humans and have been known to approach small gatherings of people and help themselves to whatever they can find.
Their conservation status is classified as 'least concern by the IUCN.
EMUs are no longer seen in densely populated areas, particularly along the east coast. However, because of the stability of their broad range, a decrease in their presence along the east coast is unlikely to put the animal in jeopardy of extinction.
EMU numbers may have grown after European colonization, despite the loss in some places. EMU is the sole survivor of numerous species that European colonists wiped off. The EMUs capacity to breed quickly, along with the availability of water for domestic animals, has aided its survival.
There are approximately 625,000 to 725,000 untamed EMUs in Australia. EMU numbers also fluctuate based on rainfall from decade to decade.
Due to car crashes, habitat degradation, and the rise of feral dogs and pigs, specific small populations in New South Wales have been designated as threatened with extinction.
Did You Know?
EMUs are being farmed for their flesh, leather, and oil throughout the world.
EMU farming has been attempted for several decades, but interest in the sector has lately grown.
Under ideal captive conditions, a couple of EMUs may lay ten eggs each year, yielding an average of 5.5 young. These would produce 4 square meters of leather, 150 kilograms of meat, 5.5 kilograms of feathers, and 2.7 liters of oil after 15 months.
Reasons for Threat
Emus have survived in Australia for countless generations, but anecdotal research proves they are becoming less frequent.
You would think that the tallest bird in Australia should have no predators. That is unfortunately not true. Dingoes and Wedge-tailed Eagles are two species that dare to attack the second largest bird in the world.
Predation does not stop with the bird itself. Many animals devour EMU eggs and are therefore a constant threat. These animals are:
Habitat loss and degradation, car collisions, and purposeful killing are the primary risks to EMUs. In addition, EMU mobility and migration are hampered by barriers (such as dog fences), which result in many birds being crushed.
Did You Know?
Emus were previously hunted in great numbers because they might destroy wheat fields.
What Can You Do to Help?
When driving, be careful of road signage warning the presence of EMUs and slow down. If you come across them, be cautious and give them plenty of room to get off the road. Dogs may annoy and hurt EMUs and other animals, so keep them under control.
Take extra precautions during the hours of dawn and dusk when EMUs are most active.
Since animals like EMU tend to move across the country courtesy of factors like temperature and rainfall, it can get tough to keep track of where they live.
SDMs (species distribution modeling) integrate information on the environment in the country with maps of where a species has been spotted. These factors come together to provide a ‘prediction map’ of where a species may be located.
The greater the number of occurrences of a species, the more precise these maps will be.
EMUs are among the most easily recognized animals, and people like photographing them! Every year, between 5,000 and 30,000 EMU observations are recorded by citizen scientists around Australia.
As previously mentioned, EMU is easy to recognize. If not anything else, its size makes it immensely easy to be spotted and identified!
An EMU can reach a height of 2 meters (6.5 feet) and weigh 45 kilos (99 pounds). Male EMUs are nearly identical to females. However, females are typically bigger. After 10-14 months, males and females are distinguishable through their voices where the male grunts and the female beings guttural drumming.
Except for the neck and head, primarily bare and bluish-black, adult EMUs are covered in scruffy grey-brown feathers. Brown EMU feathers develop in pairs, with two shafts connected at the root.
The barbs that emerge from the shafts are not linked together like they are in the feathers of flying birds. This implies the bird seems to be coated with hair rather than feathers.
Did You Know?
The birds are black after molting, but sunshine fades the feathers, making them paler by the end of the season.
EMUs have wings, but they don’t utilize them to fly. EMU wings, approximately the size of a hand, are beneficial in hot weather because they spread them out from their sides to allow air to flow.
The ends of its feathers absorb the heat, and the loose-packed interior plumage shields its body from the warmth, enabling the EMU to stay active throughout the hot day.
Although the wings have been significantly shortened, the legs remain long and strong. EMU can run as fast as 45km per hour. It has three forward-facing toes and no rear toes on each foot.
EMUs beaks are soft and pointed that are adapted for grazing. Their beak is brownish-black, and their eyes are yellowish-brown. In colder conditions, EMUs have huge, multi-folded nasal passageways that allow them to breathe normally.
The other main reason why EMUs travel great distances is in search of food. They move on foot, covering distances of up to 500 kilometers or more, searching for great food sites. EMUs forage for food during day times and rest at night.
Adult EMUs in the open eat grazing grass, grains, wild fruits, herbs, insects, and even little animals that they come across in their natural environment to meet their dietary demands. Grasshoppers, beetles, cockroaches, ladybirds, ants, spiders, and millipedes are among the insects they consume.
Traveling EMUs have been observed eating seeds from Acacia aneura until it rains, after which they switch to grass stems and caterpillars. They eat Cassia leaves and pods during winter. They eat grasshoppers and the fruit of Santalum acuminatum, a type of quandong when sprint comes.
Tiny stones are ingested to aid in the breaking and digestion of plant matter. They also consume charcoal. However, the cause for this remains unknown. Glass shards, marbles, keys, jewelry, and nuts have all been reported to be eaten by captive EMUs.
EMUs are occasionally forced to go without water for several days due to a lack of water sources. As a result, EMUs drink seldom, but when the chance occurs, they consume substantial quantities. They prefer to sip on solid ground instead of on rocks or dirt.
They drink once per day, evaluating the water body and nearby region in groups before bending down to drink. In addition, they frequently share water holes with kangaroos, other birds, and animals in the wild. Typical drinking behavior includes:
If they feel threatened, they may typically stand rather than bend.
If they aren’t bothered, they may drink nonstop.
They are watchful and prefer to drink after the other animals have left.
EMU is one of the most abundant birds found in Australia, where they prefer open and grassy lands.
EMUs also survive close to Australia’s major towns, although they are no longer seen in areas where natural vegetation has been destroyed to make agricultural land. Instead, they tend to relocate within the country depending upon food, climate, and possible threats.
More so, an EMU can survive for 5 to 10 years or even longer in captivity. Read this interesting post to find out how long can sparrows live if you’re an avid birdwatcher.
Wondering how long do these fiercely competitive birds live? You’ll be amazed to find out that the average lifespan is just 3 years!
David A. Swanson
Bird Watching USA
My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!