On March 14th and 15th, following an eight-week incubation, two Emu chicks emerged from their eggs at Brevard Zoo. The pair is the first shared offspring of six-year-old female, Lafawnduh, and 23-year-old male, Napoleon.
“Once the female lays the eggs, she skips town and the male takes over,” said Michelle Smurl, director of animal programs at the Zoo. “Napoleon did a great job of sitting on the eggs, but he wasn’t too interested in the chicks once they hatched.”
Animal care staff made the decision to hand-rear the chicks, which are thriving. A third chick began to hatch, but did not make it out of the egg. Two remaining eggs were removed from the nest and placed in an incubator.
“The chicks are living behind the scenes for the time being, but they’ll probably be out for guests to see in the next few weeks,” added Smurl. “We’re focused on providing the chicks and unhatched eggs with the best possible care right now.”
The Emu (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.
Emu chicks weigh less than a pound upon hatching, but can exceed 100 pounds as adults. A national icon in its native Australia, the Emu is renowned for its stature, striking blue skin, and “goofy” demeanor. Its diet consists primarily of grasses and insects.
On an international level, the Emu is currently classified as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. However, the New South Wales Government classifies the population of the New South Wales North Coast Bioregion and Port Stephens as “Endangered”.
Although the population of Emus on mainland Australia is thought to be higher now, some local populations are at risk of extinction. The threats faced include: the clearance and fragmentation of areas of suitable habitat, deliberate slaughter, collisions with vehicles, and predation of the eggs and young.