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.

Related articles:



Emu, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

Male Emu with babies, Monarto Zoo, South Australia

Male Emu with babies, Monarto Zoo, South Australia


13 Responses to “Do Emus Swim?”

  1. Snail says:

    Are you sure they weren’t bunyips?!

  2. Trevor says:

    Good one Snail.

    The only bunyips I know about are held captive in a cage here in Murray Bridge. At Sturt Reserve, the town river frontage, there is a stone and wire enclosure erected some years ago by the local council. By inserting 20 cents (I think it’s still 20c) the bunyip and her baby rise up out of the water and roar for the generous person.

    For those readers who have never heard of the mythical Australian Aboriginal creature called the bunyip go to the Wikipedia article or use your search engine. There are many references on the net.

  3. Snail says:

    Oh, that’s wonderful! I love it.

  4. Trevor says:

    I did a little research today and the cost is a dollar, not 20c.

  5. Marty says:

    Sounds like you live in Murray Bridge? How long has the bunyip in the cage been operating. I remember seeing something like this in S.A. when I was a kid. It must’ve been about 34 years ago. If it
    was not this bunyip maybe it was a previous one. I remember a cage
    with bars or similar.


  6. Trevor says:

    Hi Marty,

    I’m not sure how long the Bunyip has been living here in Murray Bridge. It’s been a long time, as you say.

    You can view a video here

  7. michael says:

    I am sitting above part of Coffin Bay in South Australia watching 6 emus in the water – they walk out and then flop in the water and swim along

  8. Trevor says:

    Thanks for that Michael – it seems that they will even enter and swim in sea water too. That’s interesting.

    I wonder if they ever attempt to drink the salt water?

  9. Trevor says:

    This post has now been updated with some recent photos as well as links to other articles about Emus.

  10. […] You can read the article here: Do Emus Swim? […]

  11. Jenny Parker says:

    Hello, we watched two Emus swim across the Murray River this morning, must be in the region of 300 metres, couldnt get a photo as we were watching thru binos, we were thrilled to watch them confiden tly swimming acroos the river, we were around 4kms from Cadell

  12. Ciaran Synnott says:

    Hi, my partner and I were recently camped at Francois Peron National Park in Shark Bay WA when two Emus strolled out of the bush and took a dip in the ocean. They came out of the water had a chat and decide to return for a second dip before scurrying back to the bush. We were at a bit of a distance but still got some good photos, definitely the most unusual/remarkable sight of nature we saw on the road over a great ten week road trip.

  13. Trevor says:

    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.

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