Emus are one of the largest birds and are part of the Casuariidae family, which includes cassowaries. The world’s large flightless birds are grouped together as the Ratites, including Emus, cassowaries, ostriches, and the extinct rhea.
Here, we’ll be answering the question: where do Emus live?
Living solely in Australia, there are one species of Emu divided into three subspecies inhabiting northern, southeastern, and southwestern Australia. Emus are found in all Australian states except Tasmania.
Emus are tough and have thrived in Australia for thousands of years. They even survived the Australian government’s attempts to cull them in their masses, dubbed the “Emu War”.
Emus are widespread in many Australian states, including Victoria, where they’re common in most rural areas. So if you want to see Emus in Australia, you won’t have much issue finding them as there are around 625,000 to 725,000 distributed across much of the country.
Read on to learn more about the distribution of these extra-large birds!
Emus are widespread across many Australian States
Emus are found solely in Australia. They’re present in every state except Tasmania, where they became extinct and weren’t reintroduced. While they live predominantly on the mainland, small populations live on Kangaroo Island. Emus were also present on Maria Island until the 1990s.
Some sources state that Emus are also found in New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, and Indonesia, but this isn’t the case. Emus are found only in Australia and not in other parts of Oceania.
Emus are kept as domestic farm animals across some parts of Oceania but occur naturally only in Australia.
Emus are less common in central interior Australia, which is particularly arid. They prefer savannahs and woodland habitats and typically avoid extremely arid or rainforest environments.
Emus are only found in Australia, as a natural species
Emus are flexible, adaptable birds that inhabit many habitats. They prefer eucalyptus forests, various woodland, heathland, shrubby deserts, and savannah plains. These birds are nomadic and often travel, so they don’t generally stick around a single habitat for too long.
Emus generally avoid highly arid or rainforest environments. Arid deserts don’t supply enough food and water, whereas rainforests are too dense. In addition, Emus prefer open areas so they can spot predators and promptly move.
As Emus are highly adaptive, they live across many different habitat types in Australia
Emus are not rare, and their populations are considered stable. By current estimates, there are some 625,000 to 725,000 Emus in Australia.
These days, Emus are protected and can only be culled on private property or under license. This has kept their populations relatively stable, as Emus were once heavily persecuted in the 19th century.
Not only were Emus persecuted for their eggs, but they were regularly culled due to their impact on farming. As a result, the bird is extinct in some areas, including Tasmania, Kangaroo Island, and King Island. There used to be four extant (living) subspecies of Emu until the Tasmanian subspecies were persecuted to extinction.
Today, Emus are common in many Australian states and are easy to see all year round. For example, you can spot them throughout rural Victoria and much of Western Australia, including the rural suburbs of most major cities.
Some coastal Emu populations have depleted in recent years, leading to some local populations being listed as endangered.
Emu walking along a beach in Western Australia
Emus are nomadic and move southwest in the winter and northeast in summer. Western Emu populations are more predictable, whereas eastern populations seem to follow less predictable migration patterns.
Emus migration is not motivated by cold weather, as these birds are pretty hardy and can tolerate snow in the parts of Australia that regularly receive it during winter.
Since they can’t fly, Emus migrate by walking. With their long, powerful legs, Emus are capable of long-distance travel and can cover hundreds of miles in mere days.
They travel to track rainfall, which also signals plant growth. Emus love to feed on fresh shoots and tubers that emerge from the ground shortly after heavy rainfall.
The only time of the year Emus are relatively static is during the breeding season, when young emus stay close to their father for 3 to 4 months.
A pair of Emus bathing in the water
Emus live in every Australian state except Tasmania, where they became extinct. They’re less common in the arid interior, where average rainfall is less than 600mm yearly.
Emus live in numerous habitats ranging from coastal sand dunes to the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. They tend to steer clear of urban areas but are found close to rural settlements on the outskirts of large cities.
Emus also give rainforests a wide berth, probably because they’re too wet and dense.
These large birds prefer open spaces with plenty of room to move around. Open areas also enable them to spot predators from a distance, which isn’t possible in dense woodland or rainforests.
Wild Emus in Victoria's Grampians National Park
Emus are common in northern, southeastern, and southwestern Australia. They’re easy to spot by the sides of roads or roaming rural areas.
You’re less likely to spot Emus on the east coast, and they’re absent from Tasmania. Overall, Emus are common and can be found in many National Parks and Australian wildlife reserves.
While some populations of Emus live near rural settlements, most are pretty secretive and tend to avoid human contact. You can also find Emus in Emu farms, of which there are thousands across Australia.
Emu walking alongside a road, near Exmouth, Australia
Numerous national parks across the country contain Emus, and the large birds are pretty easy to spot if you generally know where to look.
Emus are easy to find in rural Victoria, where they’re often spotted along roads.
Other common tourist spots for seeing Emus and other Australian wildlife include Coorong in South Australia, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve west of Warrnambool, and the tourist towns of Exmouth and Denham, where you can sometimes spot them on the beach.
Winter is not especially harsh in Australia. In fact, it’s easy to avoid freezing temperatures which are quite rare in some regions. However, Emus can tolerate cold temperatures, including snow, which is quite common across Australia’s southerly regions.
Emus can reportedly tolerate temperatures as low as -5C or 23F, which is exceptionally low for Australia, albeit a relatively mild winter in many parts of the world. In fact, ostriches can tolerate much lower temperatures approaching -30C, or -23F!
In the winter, emus puff up their dense feathers to keep warm. They also increase their heart rates and metabolism to almost three times more than in the summer to keep warm blood pumping through their body. While Emus can tolerate such temperatures, they’ll do their best to avoid them.
Emus at the Pinnacles Desert, Western Australia
Australia is a hot place! In some regions, temperatures rarely dip below 20C or 68F, even in winter. Temperatures regularly soar to 45C or 113F and higher.
While Emus don’t choose to live in Australia’s very hottest regions, they can undoubtedly tolerate high heat. Heat is not an issue so long as the bird can access food and water.
Emus adapt to the heat by breathing quickly and having an adapted nose that helps them condense and reuse water. Emu feathers are also highly efficient at reflecting solar radiation and shielding them from the sun’s rays.
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