With the wonderful response we received to our first Brockswood lesson, we thought we'd put another together for you! This time we would love to talk to you about Emus, one of our most fascinating and unique animals, sometimes overlooked for not being quite so cute and cuddly.
The word Emu comes from an Arabic word meaning ‘large bird’, and large they most certainly are! Emus are Australia's largest bird and the second largest bird in the world. They stand about 2 metres tall.
Emus belong to a family of flightless birds called 'Ratites'. Most of this family are now sadly extinct; and only the Emu, Ostrich, Cassowary, Kiwi and Rhea are living today.
Think: Can you name any other animals from Australia?
Research: If the Emu is the second-largest bird in the world, which bird is the largest? We’ll give you a clue; it is one of the other members of the Ratite family. Which bird is the smallest? Can you do a bit of maths and calculate the size difference between these two very different birds?
Research: What does the word 'Extinct' mean? It is very important that we care for animals and stop this from happening to them. This is called 'Conservation'.
Emus have been living in Australia for a very long time. Their ancestors, the Dromornithids, roamed the land when Dinosaurs lived; and they are even thought by some scientists to be “Living Dinosaurs”, as they have many similar or even identical features to their Dinosaur relatives!
Some of these amazing features shared with their Dinosaur ancestors include:
Most birds have what is called a keeled sternum (their breast bone), but Ratites don't have this, like their dinosaur ancestors. This means that they don’t have a strong anchor for their wing muscles that other birds have, and they could not fly even if they had large wings! They do have tiny wings hidden under their feathers, but cannot use them.
Although they can't fly, they can most certainly run! They have long legs and powerful feet with three forward-facing toes. This allows them to run very fast - up to 30 miles per hour! These strong legs can also deliver some very powerful kicks; and one toe on each foot has a long talon, which can be lethal to predators. They are also good swimmers and love the bathe.
Emu feathers are very different to most birds and these hang loosely, rather than being smooth and aerodynamic, giving them their shaggy appearance. This is how we think dinosaur feathers would have looked too!
Research: Have a look at some different birds and their feet. They’re not all the same and can vary a lot between different species – why do you think this may be?
Research: All birds are thought to be descended from Therapod Dinosaurs (this group of dinosaurs even includes the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex!). Can you find any other traits that make them similar to our bird friends? A very big hint below...
Emus are omnivorous and need very nutritious food to maintain their huge body weight – they can weigh up to 54kg. They mainly eat vegetation, including a wide variety of leaves, grasses, seeds and native flowers; as well as water plants, such as duckweed and algae. They also enjoy a variety of fruit and vegetables here at Brockswood.
Suggested Homework: You are now in charge of preparing Malcolm the Emu's dinner at the sanctuary. What will you put in his bowl for him?
We've only just scratched the surface about the amazing Emu and hope that you can see them a little differently now! If you would like to learn more, why not dig a little deeper and see what facts you can find? or ask us some questions, we love talking about our animals!
Now we'd love to see you get arty and have some fun! Why not draw, paint, or make your own Emu at home. Get creative! and don't forget to take some photos and send them to us, we, and Malcolm our Emu, would love to see them.