I can’t fly but I’m telling you …

… I can run the pants off a kangaroo! (Old Man Emu, John Williams)

"He's got a beak and feathers and things but the poor old fella ain't got no wings", lyrics by John Williams; photo by Sheree Ford

He does have wings, but they are too small for flying. We don’t have any emus in our area, but in the national park near Woody Head on the coast you used to see them occasionally crossing the road. Somehow they looked wrong there – probably because of all those documentaries showing them in the outback deserts where they look right at home.

These birds aren’t found anywhere else in the world, but rheas and ostriches are related to them, all being in a group called “ratites“. The African ostrich is the tallest ratite (about 3 metres tall), with the emu being next (about 2 metres tall). The New Zealand kiwi is the smallest ratite. New Zealand also used to have several species of flightless moas, but they’re gone, too. Australia has another ratite, the cassowary, endangered because of habitat loss in Far North Queensland.

By the way, in case you’re wondering it’s pronounced “e-mew”, not “e-moo”. And it can sure run the pants off you.

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6 Responses to I can’t fly but I’m telling you …

  1. Cath Clrak says:

    Yes, I miss the days when the emus could be seen along Iluka Road. Saw one strolling around Iluka Bluff 6-8 years ago. The WIRES people say they’re all gone from Iluka now. They didn’t get that 80 K speed limit in place soon enough. Still in Yuragir NP to the south, though. Recent sightings at Brooms Head & Wildlife SOS, a local Clarence VAlley group, inventories them annually for NPWS. They made a BILLBOARD just south of the Harwood Bridge exit advertising the C Valley. A fantastic painting by Kerry Cranney.

    • janebeauane says:

      Well, we of course have the ostriches, mostly on farms, but there are some smaller nature rserves close by when one can see them. When you see them on a farm, it is not necessarily an ostrich farm. They are used quite extensively as stock guards. A kick from an adult ostrich can kill a human and they can run like the clappers! When they’re nesting, they are very testy (the dad does most of the brooding work). A big flock is calmer then a single or a pair. They can become quite tame with their keepers but not the general public. Their eyelashes are stunning! I have (very long ago) ridden a tame ostrich which used to be possible in the bad old days.

  2. peonyden says:

    Great post.
    Nice to know they are still surviving in some places on the NSW coast.
    Road Kills are the main problems for Cassowaries at Mission Beach too, apparently.
    Does the Council erect warning signs?
    I hope so.
    Denis Wilson

  3. joan knapp says:

    And I’m speaking from first hand experience when I say they can intimidate you into giving your lunch to them or closing the car window so they can’t get to it.

  4. Huh, never occurred to me before that kiwis are related to emus and ostriches! Of course!

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