These large, flightless relatives of the ostrich live in dry areas of Australia and have a lifespan of 5 – 10 years in the wild, but longer in captivity. They stand up to 2 metres tall and weigh around 50 – 55 kg.
Although not endangered, their numbers are depleted by humans, dingoes, foxes and domestic pets. Up to 20 eggs are laid at a time, 11 being the average number. Female emus call to their families by making a deep, booming sound produced by an inflatable sac in the neck.
Emus follow a pattern when searching for food. They travel north in summer and south in winter, mostly in pairs, but, occasionally form large flocks if food is scarce. They are omnivorous, eating quite a varied diet of plants, seeds and insects such as grasshoppers, leaves, fruit and even wheat crops which, of course, makes them very unpopular with farmers. In the Zoo, they are fed on ostrich mix, carrots, apples and cabbage.
Emus are inquisitive birds which will approach a person if something catches their eye, for example, a hanky sticking out of a pocket. They will also, sometimes, poke other animals and run away like children playing chase!