Pardon my prose
My eyes are bad
We have discussed this often
The literature states that emus are ‘solitary’ but people misunderstand this – it has an ornithological sense.
The life of emus – I’ve been observing them in the wild here for nearly eight years – is a cycle of fattening up for breeding-season; then breeding; then the males parent.
The species is ‘gynocentric’ – the females (usually) rule. Thus it is the females who stake out the territory. (Two times my tame-wild females have brought their ‘consorts’ here to breed. See ‘Mating Season in Australia.)
The amount of energy that these creatures expend in squabbling (but which are deadly earnest duels) is just extraordinary. They will spend hours, days, months, driving one another around and around the piece of territory they want to control.
(The house-clearing here has an abundance of food, and thus attracts high-quality birds – ‘double alphas’ – to vie for it)
Now a note about how my observations will be received by the owners of pet emus:
It seems, from my reading, that many emus raised with other critters end up living happily with them.
But I will state the case of my experience, wild emus:
These birds are evolutionarily attuned to mate. Their entire life cycle revolves around it. A bird may not become a sad neurotic ‘fence walker’ if it spends its life alone, but I state unhesitatingly that the emus with the most space, and the most access to other emus from whom they can choose mates, will be the happiest emus.
It may be that each of these birds, if in the company of other critters, will be okay; but I betcha a bottle of cold beer that almost any time the two females get a chance to vie for territory, they will do so gusto.
In the wild (I’ve watched these fights, on many occasions, from mere feet away – close enough to feel the thud of the blows on opponents’ chests), there is always the possibility of physical withdrawal, which is what makes the encounters look like squabbles.
However, if no withdrawal is possible, one may well kill the other.
(On one occasion, I had to rescue a bird entangled in wire, here in the house-clearing, from its two sisters, who were both trying to kill it. It ended up that I was holding one sister at bay with a broom while throwing rocks at the other – chunks of brick, in fact: the two birds clearly had every intention of killing the weak sister.)
Please feel free to ask further questions.
Supreme Emu, Unicup, Western Australia
[Extra bit after re-reading your post:
the male parents the clutch. In the first six or eight months, he is protective, and the chicks are scared little cheepers, always looking for pop. Then, at about ten or twelve months, the chicks begin to assert themselves, trying cheeky stuff like confronting an adult emu in their environment.
At about this time -- though I wish I'd had years more to get data on this particular issue -- the separation process begins. Pop starts to become less protective, and to compete for food with the chicks, who begin to compete with each other for food.
Then, sometime between one and two years (here, we work by seasons: chicks hatch in spring; they are one year old the following spring; and may be early contenders to mate the winter after that), pop splits from the chicks, who also become steadily more aggressive with each other, as they become participants in the unending emu-life drama of beating other birds off the best pasture/]
the black head chicks in the photo seem to be in fine health. They look a credit to you.
Here are some of my birds:
This bottom photo is of Felicity, who just returned after two years away, and booted out her sister Number One -- the darker bird above.
The aggressive looking bird -- with her feathers flared -- is 'Greedy,' a genuine double-alpha bird, breathtakingly aggressive (towards other emus, not towards me. My mate's three-year-old fed her.
And here below is a link to a close-up photo of Greedy: http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/641934/lightbox/post/9443501/id/5253287)
It okay to see these birds as sillies in feather pyjamas. They are your pets. You're entitled to that.
But if you're looking for an answer to your question, look at the eyes of this bird. She's a dinosaur whom I have seen attack a dozen wild birds at a time, wading in, slashing chunks of feathers off them.
Edited by briefvisit - 9/20/15 at 2:12am