Dromaius – Emu
Second tallest flightless bird, and the unarmed winners of Australia’s Emu-war
Emus are the second-largest living birds by height after their relative, the ostrich. Native to Australia, these flightless birds are an iconic symbol of the country’s unique wildlife and are known for their remarkable adaptations and behaviors.
Standing up to 1.9 meters tall, emus have long necks and legs, which give them a commanding presence in their grassland, savanna, and forest habitats. Their heads are small and bluish, with a sharp beak and alert brown eyes. The emus’ plumage is less like feathers and more like shaggy, hair-like fur, which can range from a soft grey to brown, providing them with excellent insulation against the temperature extremes of the Australian environment.
Although emus have wings, they are extremely small relative to their large bodies, and the birds cannot use them for flight. Instead, these wings serve vital roles in temperature regulation and balance. During the intense Australian heat, emus can be seen fanning their wings to cool down, and while running, they use them as rudders to help steer their direction.
The emu’s eyes are a marvel of evolution, equipped with two sets of eyelids—one for blinking and the other, a translucent membrane for protection from the harsh desert dust. This adaptation is crucial for their survival in the often arid Australian landscape.
When it comes to speed, emus are unparalleled on their home continent. They can reach speeds of up to 48 kilometers per hour (30 mph), making them the fastest-running birds in Australia. Their strong, muscular legs are not just for speed; they can deliver powerful kicks to deter predators.
The daily routine of an emu is mainly diurnal; they forage throughout the day and rest when the sun sets. At night, they sleep on the ground, their plumage blending seamlessly with the Australian bush, providing camouflage from nocturnal predators.