In my posting yesterday here I mentioned that we recently went on a road trip to Sydney to help out our family living there. At a distance of just over 1300km it is a significant journey to undertake, fully two days of travelling. We’ve done this journey many times over the last 15 years, and now we have the incentive of visiting our only grandchildren in the process.
Because the journey takes up most of the two days there are few opportunities for birding along the way – except from the car while speeding along at over 100kph. It always delights me when I see something special, like the Banded Lapwings yesterday. I usually make a list of the species seen along the way.
One bird species I always look for in the early stages of the trip is the Emu. The western plains of NSW are good habitat for this species and we usually see one or two small flocks. On this occasion we saw two separate groups, the second one being a male adult bird accompanied by about 4 or 5 half grown chicks, a little bigger than those shown in the photo above. This photo was taken some time ago in Monarto Zoo which is close to our home, being only about a 15 minute drive away.
The birding on our recent visit to Innes National Park at the southern tip of Yorke Peninsula was less than exciting. It was blowing a gale, overcast and threatening to rain. The birds were generally keeping a low profile and I don’t blame them.
Emus have a problem keeping low because of their size. As we entered the national park we found a small mob of five juvenile Emus wandering along quite unafraid of our vehicle only metres away. These birds are obviously quite used to cars and buses travelling along the roads in the park because it is a very popular holiday and day tripper destination here in South Australia.
This group was about three quarters adult size and I’d estimate that they were between 12 an 18 months old. They were also independent of their father. The male Emu sits on the eggs, hatches them and then cares for the young for up to 18 months.
If you look carefully at the photos (click to enlarge the image) observe how the strong wind is creating an interesting effect on their tail feathers. Almost looks like they were not enjoying the wild weather either!
The Emu is arguably the most easily recognised birds in Australia, and I would guess that many non-Australians would also be able to identify one. It is our largest native bird and is flightless. It is found in most parts of mainland Australia but not in Tasmania. These days however its occurrence in built up areas is very limited, but it can still be common in grasslands, farming areas and national parks.
Last year on a visit to our local Monarto Zoo (just ten minutes’ drive away) I managed to photograph several cooperative Emus on the various walks we undertook. This was to fill a gap in my digital photo collection; for some reason I hadn’t taken any until then.
Over the weekend I had a comments from a reader about Emus. He had observed a group of Emus entering the water at Coffin Bay on the west coast of South Australia. Michael said he had seen 6 Emus swimming in sea water there.
This brought to mind an article about Emus swimming I wrote several years ago. As a result I have completely updated that post, now with photos and links to more articles about Emus.
You can read the article here: Do Emus Swim?
I guess the Emu is one of the most recognisable birds in Australia. Not only is it our biggest bird, it also features on our coat of arms. Most Australians would instantly recognise an Emu if they saw one out in the wild or in a park. Birders from all over the world would probably have a fair idea of what an Emu looks like.
I hope my readers know what an Emu looks like because strangely enough I don’t seem to have taken one with my digital camera. (Somewhere on several thousand old slides I am sure I have several, but finding them would take all day). See update below.
A question arose recently on the Birding-Aus forum, “Do Emus swim?” The answer is most definitely “yes.” It is not a common activity but they can and do swim.
Some years ago we were on a boat cruise on the Lower Glenelg River near Nelson in south-western Victoria. This was a very relaxing two hour cruise on a lovely stretch of the river. The birding was also very good, with excellent views of Peregrine Falcons along the way. On our return voyage back down river, the captain suddenly interrupted his commentary to point out two Emus swimming across the river about fifty metres in front of the boat. Only their snake-like necks showed above the water. He slowed the boat and turned so everyone on board had a good view.
On reaching the shore, the emus shook their feathers vigorously before heading off into the bush. The captain explained that despite doing this cruise almost every day for over twenty years he had never seen Emus swimming. I later checked with other readers of Birding-Aus and some said that it was relatively common along the River Murray, especially in times of drought when the Emus are migrating, looking for food.
I now have some photos of Emus to share with you. These were taken last year at our local Monarto Zoo – just a few kilometres from my home. I have also added some links to other articles about Emus.
Parts of the above article were quoted in an article in the Sunday Mail, a weekly paper published in South Australia. It appeared in the July 12th 2015 edition.