Ellie, Elvis, Englebert, Evie
Emus are flightless birds, native to Australia. The second largest living bird.
They are opportunists and nomads, following the rain for their food which is mainly seeds, flowers, soft shoots and insects. Their population in the wild in Australia varies from decade to decade from 200,000 to a million (in the less populated parts of that country).
Emus and Rheas are in the same grouping of flightless birds; both have no crop, three toes and are similar size and speed over the ground. In both, the male makes the nest, sits on the young and guards them in their growing stage; the female's role is to lay the eggs. Emus' wings are much shorter than Rheas' and they, uniquely, have feathers with a double shaft (rachis) and un-zipped barbs.
They mate every day or two and usually about 8 fertile eggs are laid, which are dark green. After the male begins to incubate the eggs the female continues to lay further eggs, but they are not fertile - perhaps they act as decoys in case the nest is raided. The male does not eat, drink or defecate during the 42 days he is incubating and only stands to turn the eggs, which he does about 10 times a day. He can lose up to a third of his body weight.
The chicks are about 25cms tall at hatching and heavily striped and learn from their father how to eat. He stays to guard them for about 6 months and although nests are heavily predated, about 4 in 5 chicks survive. A further clutch can be laid if a whole nest is lost.
Wild emus can live for 10 years; in captivity they can live for more than double that.