Emu

The emu (/ˈmj/) (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the second-largest living bird by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. The emu's range covers most of mainland Australia, but the Tasmanian, Kangaroo Island and King Island subspecies became extinct after the European settlement of Australia in 1788.

Emu
Temporal range: Middle Miocene – present Miocene–present[1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Infraclass: Palaeognathae
Order: Casuariiformes
Family: Casuariidae
Genus: Dromaius
Species:
D. novaehollandiae
Binomial name
Dromaius novaehollandiae
(Latham, 1790)[3]
Subspecies
Distribution in red
Synonyms
List
  • Casuarius novaehollandiae Latham, 1790
  • Dromiceius novaehollandiae (Latham, 1790)
  • Casuarius australis Shaw, 1792
  • Dromaius ater Vieillot, 1817
  • Dromiceius emu Stephens, 1826
  • Casuarius diemenianus Jennings, 1827
  • Dromiceius major Brookes, 1830
  • Dromaeus irroratus Bartlett, 1859
  • Dromaeus ater (Blyth, 1862)
call of a female emu at the ZOOM Erlebniswelt Gelsenkirchen in Germany

Emus are soft-feathered, brown, flightless birds with long necks and legs, and can reach up to 1.9 metres (6.2 ft) in height. Emus can travel great distances, and when necessary can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph); they forage for a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without eating. They drink infrequently, but take in copious amounts of water when the opportunity arises.

Breeding takes place in May and June, and fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times and lay several clutches of eggs in one season. The male does the incubation; during this process he hardly eats or drinks and loses a significant amount of weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season. The emu is an important cultural icon of Australia, appearing on the coat of arms and various coins. The bird features prominently in Indigenous Australian mythology.

The bird is sufficiently common for it to be rated as a least-concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Despite this, some local populations are listed as endangered, with subspecies such as the Tasmanian emu going extinct by the 1800s. Threats to their survival include predation of their eggs, roadkills, and fragmentation of their habitats.


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