Physical Characteristics

The emu is the largest bird native to Australia and the second largest bird in the world. Emus are 60 to 75 inches (150 to 190 centimeters) in height and weigh 51 to 120 pounds (23 to 55 kilograms). They have long, strong legs and can run up to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour). They have long necks and short wings. The adults have brown feathers while the chicks are striped with black, brown, and cream-colored feathers. They have heads with blue skin and stiff black hair. Females are slightly larger than males.

Emus belong to a group of birds called ratites (RAT-ites), which are flightless birds that have a flat breastbone rather than a keeled or curved breastbone like birds of flight. They have a simplified wing bone structure, strong legs, and no feather vanes, making it unnecessary for them to oil their feathers. Consequently, they have no preen gland that contains preening oil, unlike most birds.

Emus have long, loose double feathers in which the aftershaft, or the secondary feather that branches from the base of the main feather, is as long as the main feathers.

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