- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids


Emu Facts

Size 4.9-6.2 ft (150-190 cm)
Speed Up to 25 mph (40 km/h)
Weight 66-100 lb (30-45 kg)
Lifespan 12-20 years
Food Plants, seeds, insects
Predators Wild dogs, birds of prey
Habitat Australia
Order Ratites
Family Casuariidae
Scientific name Dromaius novaehollandiae
Characteristics Large body, big eyes

Main Characteristics

Like the ostrich, rhea, cassowary, and kiwi, the emu is a so-called ratite. As its name implies, they are able to run very well and fast. Yet, none of them is able to fly, because they are just too tall and heavy – or their wings are too small (like the kiwi’s).

Anatomy and Appearance

Do Emus Have Feathers ... or Hair?

Most birds have feathers which grow from one single root. It is different with the emu. From its “hair roots” grow feathers with two (!) quills. As they are hanging down fairly loosely, it looks as if the emu had a hairy coat instead of feathers. Yet, it does not need to go to the hairdresser.

Emus Have Strong Hind Legs

The emu is the only bird that has calf muscles similar to those of mammals. This enables them to jump more than 6.5 feet (2 meters)! The question is: Do emus also get sore muscles then?

Emu Emu - Photo: chbaum/Shutterstock


Emus Lay Dark-Green Eggs

Bird’s eggs are not always white or brown. The emu’s eggs are dark-green and as big as the palm of your hand including the fingers.


Female emus normally lay between 5 and 15 eggs and then move on to lay some more eggs. What does happen then? Will the eggs remain unprotected? Fortunately, male emus are very caring daddies. As soon as the eggs fall into the nest, they stop eating and drinking to be able to guard and hatch the eggs for 24 hour a day. For eight weeks! By the time the fledglings emerge from the eggs, the father has lost about one third of its weight. After six months the little birds have grown up.

Twin Fledglings

Not only humans occasionally give birth to twins, but other mammals as well. Yet, it is very unusual among birds. The emu is the first bird that has evidently hatched two identical twin fledglings.

Emu Emu-Egg - Photo: Curioso/Shutterstock


Where Does the Name Emu Come From?

It seems to be obvious to think that the term “emu” might be a word from the language of the Australian natives, the Aborigines. Yet, “emu” is an ancient Arabian word meaning “big bird”.

Emu Emu - Photo: Curioso/Shutterstock

Fun Facts

Emus Have Countless Fans in Australia

In Australia, more than 600 locations are named after the emu: mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, types of beer, magazines, and many more.

Emu Emu - Photo: clearviewstock/Shutterstock

Ratite Species Fact Sheets

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