Dromaius novaehollandiae - Emu


Note 1

























Dromaius novaehollandiae

Common name

: emu


  • Height from the top of the head: 1.5 - 1.9 m
  • Height to the back: 1.0 - 1.3 mWeight: 50 - 55 kg
  • Lifespan:6 years
  • Sexual maturity:2 years
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years in the wild


Emu, scientific name Dromaius novaehollandiae of the familyDromaiidae, is a bird that lives in Australia in different types of habitats ranging from wooded areas to plains, from coastal areas to more inland areas. The only areas where it is not found are the tropical forests, the far north and all densely inhabited areas. It is also possible to find it on the edge of the desert but only after the rain period.


The emu is a large bird second only to the ostrich and like him it has lost the ability to fly but has developed that of running thanks to the particularly long and powerful limbs that end with three fingers, more like claws, which allow it to have an excellent feat in the ground and which become, in case of need, an offensive weapon. If threatened, it can reach speeds of 50km / h.

Note 2

There is sexual dimorphism as the male is about 10% smaller than the female.

A peculiarity of the emu is that the skin is blue in color.

It has small, pointed wings, about 20 cm long, which have lost the ability to fly and simply hang down at the sides. The feathers have the particularity, unique among birds, of having a double rachis, in fact from the calamus (which is the part stuck in the skin) a secondary feather of the same length as the main one develops. This peculiarity means that its plumage is particularly spiky and along the neck and on the back there is a long parting giving the sensation that the emu has "combed with the part in the middle". The plumage is dark in color when young, which gradually lightens with age due to the sun.


The emu is a social bird that can be found in pairs, in small groups or large groups of even hundreds of individuals.

It is a fundamentally shy but very curious animal, which moves from one area to another following the rains and for this reason it is defined as a migratory bird.

It is not a territorial bird in the sense that, except during the reproductive period, it has no territorial pretensions as it constantly moves in search of water and food that it accumulates to form fat reserves for difficult periods, during which it can also lose its half the weight (see paragraph "Reproduction and growth of young").


It is not a particularly sophisticated animal in eating as it adapts to the availability of food: if the season is good it prefers to feed on flower seeds or tender shoots as well as on small vertebrates and insects; if the season is not favorable then it feeds on whatever it finds, grass or leaves, even dry and leathery.

To look for food, it walks very slowly by moving its head to ground level and tearing the vegetation with its beak and then the food is swallowed with a backward blow with the head.


The male emu in the context of reproduction, unlike most of the animal species, takes on a key role, in fact it is he who takes care of both the acova and the subsequent growth of the chicks until they reach adulthood.

Note 3

When the mating period arrives (in the month of December, that is to say during the Australian summer period), the female emits sounds similar to drum beats to attract the attention of the male. At that point the male begins to build the nest with herbs, branches, barks and whatever he can find. Once finished, the male waits for a female to pass by to mate.

Shortly before actual mating, the male and female stand next to each other, swinging their heads and bending their necks until the female sits down to be mounted.

From that moment and for about five months the couple uses the same territory until the female lays the eggs (from 7 to 11 eggs between April and June). These are particular in that they are of a very intense green color, at the moment in which they are laid, and become, as the embryo matures, of a black color.

Other females can lay eggs in the same nest always leaving the male to do the hatching and in the end you can have a nest with up to 15-25 eggs.

The female after the laying goes away and leaves to the male the task of the hatching and the subsequent growth of the chicks. During the whole period of the egg, the male remains without drinking, without eating, without defecating and rarely leaves the nest; it only emits loud cries often to defend its territory and discourage any intruders.

After about two months the eggs hatch and when the young are born they are well formed, weigh about half a kilo and after a few hours they are able to walk.

They have a plumage with brown and cream streaks along the length of the body, which remains so for about three months and this allows the young to be largely camouflaged to predators.

The male can also agree to raise chicks from other litters as long as they are not larger than his own.

During the growth of the young, the males are very aggressive and do not allow anyone to get close.

Generally the chicks stay with the male for about five months if the food and water conditions are optimal, otherwise they can stay up to a year.After this period the chicks are completely independent and at the age of 2 they are already able to reproduce.


The emu is classified in the Red list of the IUNC 2009,2 among the animals at low risk of extinction LEAST CONCERN (LC), by virtue of the fact that it lives in such a vast range, that is to say in almost the entire Australian continent, that the its population is considered stable.


At the beginning of the century the emus did not enjoy great fame but were disliked by the local populations as they were great devourers of grain and crops in general. In fact, in 1932 there was the so-called "war of the emu" just to try to "eradicate" what was then considered a plague. Over time, a net hundreds of kilometers long has been set up to try to contain them, separating the emus from the cultivated areas of southwestern Australia.

They are very useful birds in keeping the population of grasshoppers and caterpillars under control.

In Australia there are numerous breeding of these birds as from them both the meat and the skin were extracted. Emu oil is also used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries while eggs have a market in furnishings as they are painted or otherwise worked in various ways.


The emu, together with the kangaroo, is present in the coat of arms of Australia as both are considered the symbol of the national fauna. Beyond these two animals there is a shield where the emblems of the six Australian states are depicted, all surrounded by a branch of golden mimosa which is the national floral emblem. This emblem was granted to Australia by George V.

The species Dromaius novaehollandiae is the only surviving species of the genus Dromaius.


  1. non-copyrighted image, courtesy of Sengkang:
  2. non-copyrighted image, courtesy of Papphase;
  3. non-copyrighted image, courtesy of Darkros.

Dromaius novaehollandiae - Emu

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Dromaius novaehollandiae (Latham, 1790)

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The emu (/ ˈ iː m juː /, sometimes US / ˈ iː m uː / Dromaius novaehollandiae) is the largest bird native to Australia and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. It is the second-largest extant bird in the world by height, after its ratite relative, the ostrich. There are three subspecies of emus in Australia. The emu is common over most of mainland Australia, although it avoids heavily populated areas, dense forest, and arid areas. Source: Wikipedia


Dromaius novaehollandiae

(Latham, 1790)

IndexOrn. p.665

Casuarius N. Hollandiae

Avibase ID:

Taxonomic Serial Number:
TSN: 174385

  • Dromaius novaehollandiae [novaehollandiae or rothschildi]: Australia
  • Dromaius novaehollandiae diemenensis: Formerly Tasmania. Extinct ca 1865

Источники, признающие этот таксон

Avibase taxonomic concepts (current):
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 01 (August 2013):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 02 (May 2014):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 03 (March 2015):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 04 (Aug 2016):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 05 (Jan 2017):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 06 (Feb 2018):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 07 (Feb 2020):
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Avibase taxonomic concepts v. 08 (Feb 2021):
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Birdlife checklist version 00:
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Birdlife checklist version 01:
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Birdlife checklist version 02:
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Birdlife checklist version 03:
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Birdlife checklist version 04:
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Birdlife checklist version 05 (Jun 2012):
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Birdlife checklist version 05.1 (Oct 2012):
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Birdlife checklist version 06 (Nov 2013):
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Birdlife checklist version 06.1 (Feb 2014):
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Birdlife checklist version 07 (Jul 2014):
Common Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
Birdlife checklist version 08 (Oct 2015):
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Birdlife checklist version 09 (Dec 2016):
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Birdlife checklist version 09.1 (Jun 2017):
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HBW and BirdLife Taxonomic Checklist v2 (Dec 2017):
Common Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
HBW and BirdLife Taxonomic Checklist v3 (Nov 2018):
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HBW and BirdLife Taxonomic Checklist v4 (Dec 2019):
Common Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
HBW and BirdLife Taxonomic Checklist v5 (Dec 2020):
Common Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
Christidis and Boles (2008): Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds:
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
Commission internationale pour les noms français des oiseaux (1993, révision 2009):
Émeu d'Australie (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
Commission internationale pour les noms français des oiseaux (1993):
Émeu d'Australie (Dromaius novaehollandiae) [version 1]
Clements 6th edition (version 6.8 incl. 2013 revisions):
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Clements 6th edition (version 6.9 incl. 2014 revisions):
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eBird version 1.54:
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eBird version 1.55:
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Howard and Moore 3rd edition (as published):
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Howard and Moore 3rd edition (incl. Corrigenda 1.2):
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Howard and Moore 3rd edition (incl. Corrigenda 2.1):
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Howard and Moore 4th edition (vol. 1-2):
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Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (31/01/2015):
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Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (03/07/2017):
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Handbook of the Birds of the World and Birdlife (Dec 2017):
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Handbook of the Birds of the World and Birdlife (Dec 2018):
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Zoonomen - Zoological Nomenclature Resource:
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Таксономический статус:

Статус вида: full species (sometimes nominal subspecies)

Этот таксон является подвидом Dromaius [novaehollandiae or baudinianus] (sensu lato) некоторыми авторами

Dromaius novaehollandiae - Emu

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Emu, flightless bird of Australia and second largest living bird: the emu is more than 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and may weigh more than 45 kg (100 pounds). The emu is the sole living member of the family Dromaiidae (or Dromiceiidae) of the order Casuariiformes, which also includes the cassowaries.

The common emu, Dromaius (or Dromiceius) novaehollandiae, the only survivor of several forms exterminated by settlers, is stout-bodied and long-legged, like its relative the cassowary. Both sexes are brownish, with dark gray head and neck. Emus can dash away at nearly 50 km (30 miles) per hour if cornered they kick with their big three-toed feet. Emus mate for life the male incubates from 7 to 10 dark green eggs, 13 cm (5 inches) long, in a ground nest for about 60 days. The striped young soon run with the adults. In small flocks emus forage for fruits and insects but may also damage crops. The peculiar structure of the trachea of ​​the emu is correlated with the loud booming note of the bird during the breeding season. Three subspecies are recognized, inhabiting northern, southeastern, and southwestern Australia a fourth, now extinct, lived on Tasmania.

Dromaius novaehollandiae - Emu

The name 'emu' is not an Aboriginal word. It may have been derived from an Arabic word for large bird and later adopted by early Portuguese explorers and applied to cassowaries in eastern Indonesia. The term was then transferred to the Emu by early European explorers to Australia.

The Emu is Australia's tallest native bird, reaching between 1.6 m and 1.9 m when standing erect. Adult Emus are covered with shaggy gray-brown feathers except for the neck and head, which are largely naked and bluish-black. The wings are greatly reduced, but the legs are long and powerful. Each foot has three forward-facing toes and no hind toe. Most people see Emus along roadsides, near fences or other barriers, giving the impression of close association. However, Emus are not really social, except for young birds, which stay with their father.

The Emu (30 - 45 kg) is lighter than its closest living relative, the Southern Cassowary Casuarius casuarius, but is taller and less heavy set in appearance. It is also much more widely distributed throughout Australia.

The Emu is found only in Australia. It lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. Emus were once found in Tasmania, but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct.

The main habitats of the Emu are sclerophyll forest and savanna woodland. These birds are rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas.

Emus move within their range according to climatic conditions. If sufficient food and water are present, birds will reside in one area. Where these resources are more variable, Emus move as needed to find suitable conditions. They are known to move hundreds of kilometers, sometimes at rates of 15 km to 25 km per day.

Emus eat fruits, seeds, growing shoots of plants, insects, other small animals, and animal droppings.

Nesting takes place in winter. The male and female remain together for about five months, which includes courtship, nest building and egg-laying. The nest consists of a platform of grass on the ground, about 10 cm thick and 1 m - 2 m in diameter. The large eggs (130 mm x 90 mm) are laid at intervals of two to four days. These are dark bluish-green when fresh, becoming lighter with exposure to the sun. The shells are thick, with paler green and white layers under the dark outer layer.

The female dominates the male during pair formation but once incubation begins, the male becomes aggressive to other Emus, including his mate. The female wanders away and leaves the male to perform all the incubation. Sometimes she will find another mate and breed again. The male incubates the eggs without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest. During this time, eggs often roll out of the nest and are pulled back in by the male.

Newly hatched chicks are cream-colored with dark brown stripes. They leave the nest when they are able to feed themselves. Young birds stay close together and remain with the male for four months. They finally leave at about six months. During this period, the stripes fade and the downy plumage is replaced by dull brown feathers. Emus are nearly fully grown at one year, and may breed at 20 months.

Sometimes eggs that have not hatched remain in the nest after the male and young have left and become sun-bleached. Bleaching takes about three months.

The first specimen collected in 1788 by Europeans was from what is now an inner suburb of Sydney: Redfern. Today, Emus are absent from heavily populated regions, especially along the east coast. Despite this loss in some areas, Emu numbers may have increased since European settlement. The provision of water for domestic stock, together with the Emu's ability to reproduce rapidly, has favored its survival.

Emu farming has been tried for several decades but recently interest has been growing in this industry. A pair of Emus may produce ten eggs a year under good captive conditions, which yield on average 5.5 chicks. At the end of 15 months, these would yield 4 square meters of leather, 150 kg of meat, 5.5 kg of feathers, and 2.7 liters of oil. Eggshells of infertile eggs have been used for carving.

Dromaius novaehollandiae - Emu

The following two printable general emu fact sheets provide a factual overview of the emu. Including anatomy, chicks, meat, eggs, feathers, leather, fat and oil. These sheets were created for teachers, but are relevant to anyone seeking more general information about emus.

Facts for the Teacher, print the pdf brochure
Facts for the Teacher about Dromaius novaehollandiae, print the pdf brochure


From the American Emu Association: About Dromaius novaehollandiae

Dromaius novaehollandiae

A large cursorial bird, Dromaius novaehollandiae originated in Australia but is raised on farms throughout the United States for it’s lean red meat and food by-products such as fat, hide and feathers. Dromaius novaehollandiae actually consists of three subspecies of emu.

As you look at the birds being raised on emu farms, can you guess which of these sub-species were the parent stocks of those birds

The three living sub-species are:

    D. novaehollandiae novaehollandiae
    On maturity and during breeding season, these birds have a cream-colored (or whitish) ruff or bib of feathers starting a few inches below the head. The pendulous pouch is larger than in other two sub-species and sways during strut. The body is wider than the other two sub-species. This sub-species originated in southeastern Australia.

D. novaehollandiae novaehollandiae

D. novaehollandiae woodwardi

D. novaehollandiae rothschildi

These three sub-species are interbreeding in both Australia and the United States.

Extinct Species of Dromaius

There are four other known species / sub-species of Dromaius that are now extinct.

  1. D. ocypus exists only as a fossil
  2. D. novaehollandiae diemenensis - This subspecies of novaehollandiae was reportedly a large emu with dark feathers. The body type was similar to that of novaehollandiae novaehollandiae. It was found on the large island of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Emu became extinct around 1850.
  3. D. baudinianus - The Kangaroo Island Emu became extinct around 1827.
  4. D. ater - King Island Emu - At 4 and half feet tall and weighing under 60 pounds fully grown, this black feathered emu was the smallest of the species. You may find it referred to as d. minor or as the dwarf emu. This emu lived on King Island, the northwestern island in Tasmania, Australia. By 1805 it had been hunted to extinction by sealers and visiting sailors. The one thing these three extinct southern Australia emus have in common is that they all had darker feathers than the mainland emus. For this reason early settlers referred to either black emu or spotted emu. Dromaius novaehollandiae is the spotted emu.

The Pendulous Pouch

In the lower part of the trachea, just before the thoracic inlet, is a segment of trachea comprised of 7 to 12 incomplete rings that form a tracheal diverticulum or open cleft. A very thin membrane covers this cleft. During breeding season this membrane enlarges, creating a pendulous pouch. This pouch is easy to see in females during their first three years of breeding, but in subsequent years does not enlarge as much. Males also have this cleft, but the membrane does not enlarge as much. This cleft is the source of the booming and grunting.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Subphylum Vertebrata
Class Aves
Order Struthioniformes
Family Dromaiidae (emu)
Genus Dromaius (emu)

  • Dromaius baudinianus (extinct)
  • Dromaius ater (extinct)
  • Dromaius ocypus (extinct)
  • Dromaius novaehollandiae

  • D. novaehollandiae novaehollandiae
  • D. novaehollandiae woodwardi
  • D. novaehollandiae rothschildi
  • D. novaehollandiae diemenensis (extinct)


Dromaius (from greek δρομαίυς "runner") is a genus of ratite present in Australia. There is one extant species, Dromaius novaehollandiae commonly known as the emu.

In his original 1816 description of the emu, Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot used two generic names first Dromiceius, then Dromaius a few pages later. It has been a point of contention ever since which is correct the latter is more correctly formed, but the convention in taxonomy is that the first name given stands, unless it is clearly a typographical error, as argued by W.B. Alexander. [2] For names published on the same day, or in the same publication, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature states that both names have equal precedence, and that the Principle of First Reviser (Article 24.2 [3]) determines which name is to be used. Most modern publications, including those of the Australian government, [4] use Dromaius, with Dromiceius mentioned as an alternative spelling. Others misspelling synonyms are descript for genus (see synonyms in taxobox). [4] However, the Dromiceius spelling was used by Dale Russell in his 1972 naming of the dinosaur Dromiceiomimus.

Several emu species were common prior to European settlement in 1788:

  • Dromaius novaehollandiae, emu, remains common in most of the more lightly settled parts of mainland Australia. Overall population varies from decade to decade according to rainfall as low as 200,000 and as high as 1,000,000, but a typical figure is about half a million individuals. Although emus are no longer found in the densely settled southern and southwestern agricultural areas, the provision of permanent stock water in arid regions has allowed the mainland subspecies to extend its range. There are five recognized subspecies or races of the emu:
    • Dromaius novaehollandiae novaehollandiae - Southeastern Australia - whitish ruff when breeding.
    • Dromaius novaehollandiae woodwardi - Northern Australia - slender, paler (not recognized as a subspecies by all authorities).
    • Dromaius novaehollandiae rothschildi - Southwestern Australia - darker, no ruff during breeding (not recognized as a subspecies by all authorities).
    • Dromaius novaehollandiae diemenensis - Tasmania - The Tasmanian emu, which became extinct around 1850.
    • Dromaius novaehollandiae minor - King Island - The King Island emu was about half the size of the mainland species. By 1805 it had been hunted to extinction by sealers and visiting sailors. Some individuals were kept in captivity in Paris, the last one dying in 1822. Vieillot coined the name Dromaius ater, but in his 1907 book Extinct Birds, Walter Rothschild stated that Vieillot's description actually referred to the mainland emu and that the name D. ater was therefore invalid. It was thought to be a distinct species until 2011. [6]
    • Dromaius novaehollandae baudinianus - Kangaroo Island - The Kangaroo Island emu became extinct around 1827 as a result of hunting and frequent fires. The larger mainland subspecies was introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1920s.
  • Dromaius ocypus, a prehistoric species of emu, [7] described from Late Pliocene fossils (Mampuwordu Sands Formation, Lake Palankarinna, Australia), accepted as distinct nowadays.
  • Dromaius arleyekweke, a diminutive species of emu, known from dispersed skeletal elements from the Miocene Waite Formation (Northern Territory, Australia) [8]

A number of other emu fossils from Australia described as separate species are now regarded as chronosubspecies at best, given the considerable variation even between living individuals. [9] There are also some unidentifiable remains of emu-like birds from rocks as old as the middle Miocene. [10]

Dromaius novaehollandiae

The emu belongs to a group of flightless birds known as ratites. This group includes the Emu, Cassowary, Rhea, Ostrich, Moa, and Kiwi.

The emu got its name because the males sometimes can make a call that sounds like "e-moo".

Domain: Eukarya

Emus are multicellular, have membrane bound organelles, undergo mitosis for cell division, and sexually reproduce.

Kingdom: Animalia

Emus have complex Eukaryotic cells, multicellular, aerobic, sexually reproduce, and are mobile.

Phylum: Chordata

Emus possess dorsal nerve cord, notocord, and pharyngeal gill pouches. They are vertebrates.

Class: Aves

Emus have four body divisions: the head, neck, trunk, and tail. They have paired limbs, covering of feathers, and leg scales. their skeleton has air cavities. They fertilize internal laying eggs.

Order: Struthioniformes

Emus are giant birds, have a small head and a medium, flat bill. Their wings are smaller and have no keel on their sternum, which makes them flightless. They have strong legs. The males are responsible for incubation.

Family: Dromaiidae

Emus have legs that were adapted for running. They are large flightless birds that live in Australia.

Genus: Dromaius

Emus live in Australia. They have three toes. Both male and female emus are the same color. Males incubate the eggs.

Species: Dromaius novaehollandiae

Emus are large, Australian, flightless birds. They are 5-6 feet tall, thick and clumsy looking, and their feathers look like hair. Their wings are so small that the wings are almost invisible. Dromaius is a Greek word meaning racer. The word novaehollandiae is Latin referring to New Guinea. Dromaius novaehollandiae roughly means "a fast runner form New Guinea".

This is a taxonomic breakdown of Dromaius novaehollandiae from its Domain to Species.

This phylogenetic tree is based on morphology. This shows where the Emus fit in the group of ratites. It is closely related to the Cassowary based on morphological comparisons.

Video: Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae - 01

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