Emus have been sighted in the Mitta Valley up Callaghan’s creek Road, and on Phillips Condon’s properties on the Mitta North and Bullhead Road.
The Emu is found only in Australia. It lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. Emus were once found in Tasmania, but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct.
The Emu is Australia’s tallest native bird, reaching between 1.6 m and 1.9 m when standing erect, a flightless bird an Emu is one of the world’s largest birds. Adult Emus are covered with shaggy grey-brown feathers except for the neck and head, which are largely naked and bluish-black. The wings are greatly reduced, but the legs are long and powerful. Each foot has three forward-facing toes and no hind toe. Most people see Emus along roadsides, near fences or other barriers, giving the impression of close association. However, Emus are not social, except for young birds, which stay with their father. The Emu (30 – 45 kg) is lighter than its closest living relative, the Southern Cassowary Casuariuscasuarius, but is taller and less heavy set in appearance and much more widely distributed throughout Australia.
The main habitats of the Emu are tall eucalyptus forests and savanna woodland. These birds are rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas.Emus are often sited in the Mitta Valley as we have this type of environment. They’re often seen grazing inopen paddocks next to woodland in order that they can gather their chicks and escape if necessary, into the surrounding forest.
Emus are not fussed what they eat. They eat a large variety of foods including fruits, seeds, growing shoots of plants, insects, other small animals, and animal droppings. This makes Emus an important distributor of diverse seeds throughout different areas.
Nesting takes place in winter. The male and female remain together for about five months, which includes courtship, nest building and egg-laying. The nest consists of a platform of grass on the ground, about 10 cm thick and 1 m – 2 m in diameter which the males adds to from time to time. The large eggs (130 mm x 90 mm) are laid at intervals of two to four days. These are dark bluish-green when fresh, becoming lighter with exposure to the sun. One of its unusual traits is its domestic life: after the female emu lays her dozen or so green eggs, she leaves the male to incubate them on his own, and after they have hatched, the striped chicks are also looked after by the male, with no contribution from the female. The female dominates the male during pair formation but once incubation begins, the male becomes aggressive to other Emus, including his mate. The female wanders away and leaves the male to perform all the incubation. Sometimes she will find another mate and breed again. The male incubates the eggs without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest. During this time, eggs often roll out of the nest and are pulled back in by the male. Newly hatched chicks are cream-coloured with dark brown stripes. They leave the nest when they can feed themselves. Young birds stay close together and remain with the male for four months. They finally leave at about six months. During this period, the stripes fade and the downy plumage is replaced by dull brown feathers. Emus are nearly fully grown at one year and may breed at 20 months.
The Emu is found only in Australia. It lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. Emus were once found in Tasmania but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct. The populations of emu although deemed secure don’t seem to be increasing in number, this is probably due to predation of the chicks by wild dogs and foxes. As there is very little written about the emu the present thought is to use GPS trackers to gain more insight into their numbers.
A presentation by Dr. Julia Ryleland on ‘Emus off the North-East Victoria’
Birdlife Australia Magazine
Field Guide to Australian Birds -Michael Morcombe