(Dromaius novaehollandiae)




Facts about this animal

The emu is a ratite with small vestigial, a long neck and long, strong legs with three forward directed toes. It is the largest native bird of Australia. It stands about 180 cm tall, height of the back is about 1 m, and the body-weight may reach 55 kg. On an average, females are somewhat larger and darker than males.

The feathers of the body are brown to grey-brown with black shafts and tips. They are hair-like and loose, bouncing as the bird runs, and giving the plumage an untidy or floppy appearance. They are unique as being the only feather in the world with two feathers coming from a single quill. The feathers of the head are lack and curly, The neck feathers are blackish, females having a white ruff during the breeding season. The bare skin on the neck is blue to whitish.

Emus are fast runners. They are extremely well adapted to semi-arid conditions, and may wander large distances in response to seasonal conditions. They are usually silent but can communicate by loud booming, drumming and grunting sounds that can be heard up to two kilometers away.
Breeding season is the southern summer. During December/January the emus will form breeding pairs, which may remain together for about five months. The male builds a rough nest from bark, grass, sticks and leaves. In the wild, a female will lay between 10 and 20 dark green eggs at intervals of 2-3 days. Farmed emus may produce as many as 25 - 40 eggs per season. The eggs are incubated by the male alone, which will not eat and drink while breeding.

The downy chicks will normally hatch after 48 - 52 days. At hatching, they stand about 25 cm tall and have a longitudinally striped plumage which is gradually replaced by a dark grey-brown juvenile plumage. After 4-5 months the stripes are no longer visible.


Emus are omnivorous and feed on a wide variety of plant material, insects and other small animals.

Did you know?
that the emu has a tracheal pouch, which is part of its windpipe? This tracheal pouch is used for communication. It is over 30 cm long and very thin-walled, and it allows the bird to produce deep guttural grunts. This pouch develops fully during the breeding season and is most frequently used during courtship.


Class AVES
Name (Scientific) Dromaius novaehollandiae
Name (English) Emu
Name (French) Emeu
Name (German) Emu
Name (Spanish) EmĂș
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Thomas Schoch



Range Australia
Habitat Dry woodland, mallee, heathland, grassland, desert shrublands and sandplains. It is found in desert areas only after heavy rains.
Wild population The global population is estimated to be 630,000-730,000 individuals.
Zoo population 1100 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 20 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
United States Department of Agriculture

Why do zoos keep this animal

The emu is not an endangered species. Zoos keep them primarily for educational purposes, because of its evolutionary adaptation to a flightless life, its interesting social and reproductive behaviour, and as an essential part of Australian exhibits along with giant kangaroos and wallabies.