Emu

Hellabrunn’s Emu Chicks Go to ‘Daddy Day Care’

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Hellabrunn Zoo Munich currently has five new Emu chicks! The chicks hatched between May 8th and May 14th, and the new mob is currently under the protective care of their ten-year-old father “Kanoro”.

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4_Emu_chicks_Hellabrunn_2016_Marc Mueller (1)Photo Credits: Marc Mueller

The Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the second-largest living bird by height, after the ostrich. It is endemic to Australia where it is the largest native bird and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius.

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 sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph). They forage for a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go weeks without eating. They drink infrequently, but take in large amounts of water when 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. Incubation takes 56 days, and the male stops incubating the eggs shortly before they hatch. The temperature of the nest rises slightly during the eight-week period. Although the eggs are laid sequentially, they tend to hatch within two days of one another, as the eggs that were laid later experienced higher temperatures and developed more rapidly. During the process, the precocial Emu chicks need to develop a capacity for thermoregulation. During incubation, the embryos are kept at a constant temperature but the chicks will need to be able to cope with varying external temperatures by the time they hatch.

Newly hatched chicks are active and can leave the nest within a few days of hatching. They stand about 12 cm (5 in) tall at first, weigh 0.5 kg (17.6 oz), and have distinctive brown and cream stripes for camouflage, which fade after three months or so. The male guards the growing chicks for up to seven months, teaching them how to find food.

Chicks grow very quickly and are fully-grown in five to six months; they may remain with their family group for another six months or so before they split up to breed in their second season.

During their early life, their father, who adopts a belligerent stance towards other Emus, including the mother, defends the young Emus. He does this by ruffling his feathers, emitting sharp grunts, and kicking his legs to drive off other animals. He can also bend his knees to crouch over smaller chicks to protect them. At night, he envelops his young with his feathers. As the young Emus cannot travel far, the parents must choose an area with plentiful food in which to breed.

In captivity, Emus can live for upwards of ten years.

In the 1930s, Emu killings in Western Australia peaked at 57,000, due to rampant crop damage. In the 1960s, bounties were still being paid in Western Australia for killing Emus. Since then, wild Emus have been granted formal protection under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Their occurrence range is between 4,240,000 and 6,730,000 km2 (1,640,000–2,600,000 sq mi), and a 1992 census suggested that their total population was between 630,000 and 725,000. The bird is now classified as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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Three Emu Chicks Take a Stroll with Dad at Berlin Zoo

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Three little Emu chicks recently hatched at the Berlin Zoo. Emu pairs breed from October to April, usually producing one emerald green egg every three days which hatches in about 48 to 52 days. Chicks can walk within hours and run within days. And they grow rapidly, gaining their full height by one year of age.

An interesting fact: after the mother hen lays and incubates the egg, she has nothing more to do with raising her chicks. All of those duties are taken up by the father, seen here out walking with them. They are hardy birds, flightless and strong runners. In time, they will be able to reach ground speeds of up to 40 miles per hour in short bursts and covering about nine feet in stride. 

The Emu is native to Australia, and is the country's national bird. They are the second largest bird in the world, the first being the Ostrich. The adult Emu measure 5 to 6 feet tall and weighs between 90 to 120 pounds. They hatch at about 10 inches tall, sporting black and white stripes. By 3 months old, the chicks turn an almost solid black. Finally, by the time they reach adulthood, their feathers have changed to an elegant, downy mix of tan, brown, and black (some have a bluish neck).

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Photo Credit: Berlin Zoo


Second That Emu-tion!

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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay welcomed two Emu chicks on February 5th and 6th. Emu belong in the Ratite Order a diverse group of flightless birds like Ostriches, Rheas, Cassowary and Kiwis.  Dark green in color, Emu eggs are roughly 5 inches long. Busch Gardens keepers were able to know when they were about to hatch by pressing their ears to the shell and listening for the baby emu tapping on the inside.

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Photo credit: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Once the keepers realized the babies were soon to hatch, they moved them both to an incubator at the Animal Care Center.  Once hatched, baby Emu are about 5 inches tall and have a unique striping pattern -- in the wild, this camouflages them from predators.