Emus are the sole survivor of the genus Dromaius and live only in Australia. One of the top-3 largest birds globally, alongside the cassowary and ostrich, an adult Emu can measure up to 1.9m tall and can weigh some 50kg.
Every colossal Emu begins life as a much smaller (albeit still relatively large) emu chick. This article covers all you need to know about baby emus - and there will be plenty of photos of baby emus along the day!
Baby emus hatch covered in a fluffy black and white-to-cream striped down. Their faces are also covered in down but are spotted rather than striped.
This striped down acts as camouflage, and the chicks lose it in around 3-months or so, slowly turning dark brown to black. Once they’ve grown out of their juvenile plumage, young emus slowly grow into their adult dusty pale gray-brown plumage.
Close up of an Australian Emu chick
Baby emus are relatively large at birth, measuring around 12cm (5in) tall and weighing approximately 0.5kg (17.6oz).
While they’re undoubtedly large for a baby bird, ostrich chicks are twice as heavy!
Emus grow rapidly, but don’t reach sexual maturity for around 3-years. Juveniles reach adult size and weight after around 8 to 12 months.
Baby emus weigh around 0.5kg (17.5oz) at birth. Emu chicks gain weight and grow very quickly, reaching their adult size and weight after around 8 months to 1-year or so.
A male emu with young chicks
Juvenile plumage begins to grow after around three months. Firstly, the young emu’s striped down is gradually replaced by dark brown to black plumage, with a dark head and neck.
The females are generally darker than the males. Meanwhile, the young emu’s fluffy face begins to thin out, exposing their bluish skin. Adult plumage develops after around 6-months and continues developing for around 12 to 15 months.
Juvenile Emu sat on the ground
There’s no specific name for a baby emu. Generally, baby emus are called chicks. At the point they hatch and immediately after, baby emus are called nestlings.
Emus don’t really have a fledgling stage, as they’re flightless! Instead, a baby emu progresses to juvenile status after around 3-months, then into adulthood after 1 to 1.5 years.
Female emus are polyandrous, meaning they mate with multiple males in one breeding season.
Unlike the majority of bird species, the male emu incubates the eggs, and then raises the chicks when they hatch. Emu chicks remain under the close care of their father for at least 6 months but may remain in the family unit for as long as 1.5 years.
During this time, the male often becomes very territorial and defensive of his chicks, even disallowing the mother’s assistance if she offers it! This does vary, as some emu couples are observed to remain monogamous. The father still takes care of virtually all parenting duties in such situations.
Male Emu taking a drink of water with his chicks nearby
Baby emus feed themselves within a few days. They follow their father, who demonstrates what they can and can’t eat by pecking at valid foods in the environment.
The chicks learn what to eat by trial and error, but can eat many types of foods ranging from small and large insects to fruits, shoots, seeds, grasses, and other plant foods.
When kept on farms, baby emus are fed with industrial bird feeds. Their diets are enriched with leafy green vegetables, fruit, and mealworms.
In the first couple of months, baby emus are often fed with a 20% protein emu starter feed. Then, between 2 to 24 months, chicks are fed with a maintenance feed, before moving to a lower 16% protein adult feed.
Three baby emus (chicks) foraging for food
Baby emus aren’t fed by their parents - they feed themselves. Emu chicks are able to walk and feed themselves within just a few days.
Baby emus follow their father - who typically raises the chicks - and follow his cues as to what they can and can’t eat. They learn what they can and can’t eat by trial and error. Emus have super-strong stomachs and large gizzards, meaning they can digest most food present in their environment.
Emu eggs are large, measuring around 130 x 90mm and weighing 450 to 650g. They’re a striking emerald green color - one of the brightest, boldly pigmented eggs of all birds.
Eggs are covered in white speckles, making them look like a dark starry night sky.
Three Emu eggs on the ground
Emu eggs are incubated for around 54 to 56 days - a long time considering they’re incubated by just the male.
The male rarely leaves the eggs during incubation and can lose up to a third of his body weight.
A typical emu clutch numbers 8 to 10 eggs, but larger clutches of some 20 to 24 eggs have been recorded.
One study found that only as many as 40% of wild emu eggs hatch successfully. Many are lost to adverse weather conditions, abandonment, predation, and sabotage by other emus.
A large emu family, consisting of eighteen chicks
Emus pair up around December to January, with egg-laying occurring throughout February until as late as May. Females may mate with around three successive partners during this time.
Once the female lays the clutch, she often wanders off as the male takes over incubation duties. However, there are exceptions, as some females stick around and remain with their mate year after year.
Baby emus stay close to their father for at least six months but often remain as a close family unit for the best part of 18 months.
Juvenile emus join a nearby herd after around 12 months, and their father is likely not far away. Emus take about three years to reach sexual maturity, at which point they gain complete independence.
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