Emu at Our Long Island Zoo

Long Island Emu

Australia’s largest bird—the Emu—is one of the most exotic birds in the world. The emu is the second-largest bird in the entire world, behind the ostrich. It belongs to a group of flightless running birds known as ratites. Weighing in at about 120-pounds and towering at six-feet tall, the emus are very large birds. Although they have small, vestigial wings (which prevent them from flying), they are quick runners. Emus can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour when chasing after their prey.

Along with their fast running capabilities, emus have an extremely strong forward kick and use their gigantic clawed feet as a defense mechanism. They are the only birds with calf muscles, which allow them to jump a staggering seven-feet in the air! This is a valuable trait, as they can escape a wide range of sticky situations in the wild. When emus run in migratory flocks, they have been recorded running exceptionally long distances— in Western Australia, emu movements follow a seasonal pattern: northward in the summer and southward in the winter. Some scientists think of emus as present day dinosaurs, due to their similarities in their bones and joints. Emus typically reside within grassy plains of Australia and try to stray away from forests, cities, and deserts as often as possible.

Emus consume a simple omnivore diet that consists of caterpillars, grasshoppers, and plants. Depending on the season, they eat different plants and insects, in which they search for during the daytime. In the winter, they eat a ton of leaves and pods of Cassia. In the spring, they mainly indulge in beetles, grasshoppers, and sweet fruit. Sometimes, they even consume ladybugs, lizards, and ants.

The emu has a simple feather appearance. When new feathers appear, they are black in color, but the strong sun fades them to a grayish-brown while the shafts and the tips of the feathers remain ebony. Emu feathers are less water-resistant than other large birds’ feathers. An emu’s tail feathers are not so soft—they are actually rigid and tough.