Emu – Australian Wildlife
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 and the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. The emu’s range covers most of mainland Australia, but the Tasmanian emu and King Island emu subspecies became extinct after the European settlement of Australia in 1788. The bird is sufficiently common for it to be rated as a least-concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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 when necessary can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph); they forage for a variety of plants and insects, but have been known to go for weeks without eating. They drink infrequently, but take in copious amounts of water when the opportunity arises.
Emu and Human – Historical Relationship.
Emus were used as a source of food by indigenous Australians and early European settlers. Emus are inquisitive birds and have been known to approach humans if they see unexpected movement of a limb or piece of clothing. In the wild, they may follow and observe people. Aboriginal Australians used a variety of techniques to catch the birds, including spearing them while they drank at waterholes, catching them in nets, and attracting them by imitating their calls or by arousing their curiosity with a ball of feathers and rags dangled from a tree. The pitchuri thornapple (Duboisia hopwoodii), or some similar poisonous plant, could be used to contaminate a waterhole, after which the disoriented emus were easy to catch. Another stratagem was for the hunter to use a skin as a disguise, and the birds could be lured into a camouflaged pit trap using rags or imitation calls. Aboriginal Australians only killed emus out of necessity, and frowned on anyone who hunted them for any other reason. Every part of the carcass had some use; the fat was harvested for its valuable, multiple-use oil, the bones were shaped into knives and tools, the feathers were used for body adornment and the tendons substituted for string.