If someone took some oversized, leftover, mismatched parts and stuck them all together, but in the wrong order (and a few of them back to front), they might come up with an emu. And in an ironic twist of fate, living in one of the hotter, drier areas of the planet, it was given the ability to swim but not to fly, (just like the penguin, but with not so much water).
I think everyone associates emus with Australia (and also Rod Hull for anyone over 30) which is why emus is featured in my Top 10 Australian Birds and they really are a treat to see. But what are they like and what are your chances of seeing one? Well, they look like this.
We recently took a friend to the Pinnacles National Park and we told him that there was a very slim chance that he might see an emu while we were there. We were only a few minutes into our walk when I spotted one in a bush a couple of hundred meters away. We all headed towards it, trying to ‘sneak’ in case it ran away (they aren’t big on flying).
When we got there I noticed that it had 4 legs rather than the traditional 2. As it appeared from the back of the bush, it turned out to be 2 of them and they disappeared into more bushes. The 3 appeared from those bushes, and 1 of the first pair was missing. Eventually, there were 5 of them a father and 4 young. Not tiny young, but definitely not adults yet.
It had rained the night before and water pools had formed in the rock’s excellent troughs at just the right height for an emu. I needn’t have worried about scaring them off, they were fine as long as we were still and more than a few meters away. I was well aware that, if he thought we were a threat to his young, the father might have chased us or even given us a kick, so we didn’t try to get too near. We watched for a long time until they disappeared into the bushes, then we carried on with our walk. Within 10 minutes they were back, following the same path as us. So we really couldn’t have had a better view.
If you’re not in Oz for long, and you really want to see one, then most wildlife parks and zoos have them. In the wild, I’d say they’re much less common than a kangaroo, but much more common than a koala, and you can find them over almost all of Australia. We’ve seen them several times in the wild, but you have to be lucky. Improve your chances by heading into the countryside away from built-up areas. If you do get close to one, be careful where you stick your hand. We all remember what trouble it got Rod Hull into in the end.