Emu Habitat -- Long but Fact-Filled and Varied

Discussion in 'Ostriches, Emu, Rheas' started by Tame Emu Guy, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. Tame Emu Guy

    Tame Emu Guy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Emu Habitat Report

    John Gould’s Birds of Australia (1840)

    This is a diversion, beloved readers, an introduction, a tour. Sit back and enjoy.

    Supreme Emu will, upon request, check any and all facts -- however, in order to knock a stake into the ground, he is gonna hit the Net hard and fast.


    One: hottest temperature ever recorded: Lut Desert, Iran – 159 F.

    Two: a number of others are listed at 139 plus.

    Three: Oodnadatta, in South Australia, gets a mention at 123 F.

    Four: here is our first ‘range map.’ S.E. suspects that it’s wrong. Two things: firstly, it seems to have been created by simply ‘removing’ emus from built-up areas. Secondly, it allows that emus range in the middle of all deserts -- ??


    Five: the map below also makes no sense. Again, why are so many emus in such inhospitable spots? Why is there an emu-free zone in the NW? Why is one tiny area in the Northern Territory desert chockablock full of emus?


    [Here in brackets: there is a great array of emu photos at:

    Six: we are already in la la land, readers.

    Seven: let’s try prose:

    ‘Emus tend to avoid heavily populated areas, therefore it is rare to see them close to cities and towns. Once common on the east coast, they are now uncommon in most coastal areas; by contrast, the development of agriculture and the provision of water for stock in the interior of the continent have increased the range of the Emu in arid regions.’

    [My italics.]

    ‘Occurs in Australia in all areas except rainforest and cleared land; rare in deserts and extreme north.’

    This makes sense!

    Eight: the following is pretty good:

    ‘Emus occur in all Australian states except Tasmania. They can be found almost anywhere in the country except within urban areas, although they can be found on the outskirts of these areas.

    Emus range from coastal areas, where they are becoming increasingly rarer due to developments and roads, to the sub-Alpine regions. Therefore, they can take a range of temperatures from cool-temperate to hot-temperate.
    They are most common in New South Wales, in open scrubland and grasslands. They are also found in areas where agriculture has overtaken the natural habitat, particularly if there is a ready water source. They may also be found on the edge of wetland areas, but not within the wetlands.

    They are not found in open, sandy desert areas of Australia's central west, due to lack of shelter and the insufficient food source for such a large bird. They are not found in rainforest regions or closed forest. Unlike many of Australia's native creatures, the emu does need a ready supply of water, so emus are not found in the desert.
    Emus used to be found in Tasmania, but European settlement resulted in their extinction there. Two dwarf species of emu inhabited Kangaroo Island (off the South Australian coast) and King Island (in Bass Strait) but they also became extinct, mostly due to being hunted by whalers and sailors.’


    Nine: so is this (academic source):

    ‘The Emu is found . . . lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. Emus were once found in Tasmania, but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct.

    The main habitats of the Emu are sclerophyll forest and savanna woodland. These birds are rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas.

    Emus move within their range according to climatic conditions. If sufficient food and water are present, birds will reside in one area. Where these resources are more variable, Emus move as needed to find suitable conditions. They are known to move hundreds of kilometres, sometimes at rates of 15 km to 25 km per day.’


    Wiki says of ‘sclerophyll’ that:

    ‘Most areas of the Australian continent able to support woody plants are occupied by sclerophyll communities as forests, savannas or heathlands. Common plants include the Proteaceae (Grevilleas, Banksias and Hakeas), tea-trees, Acacias, Boronias, and the Eucalypts.

    The most common sclerophyll communities in Australia are savannas dominated by grasses with an overstorey of Eucalypts and Acacias.’

    Ten: this is worth posting:

    ‘Other threats include the predation of chicks and eggs by foxes, feral & domestic dogs and feral pigs, bush fire, poisoning & shooting and land clearing for agriculture and urban development.’


    Feral pigs!!

    Eleven: Now S.E. will have a go:

    The range of the emu is a function of its evolution, on the one hand, and the encroachment of humans, on the other. The ‘evolutionary constraints’ are lack of food and water, type of territory, and extremes of heat and cold.

    We assume that emu populations ‘peter out’ as they simply run out of food and water, as in deserts. (Though it may well be that a couple of really good seasons would provide that emus penetrate hundreds of miles into territory that is generally emu-less.)

    We assume that emus dislike thick scrub – like the Cape York territory of the cassowary -- because it’s too hard for them to flee predators (gotta think this one over. We should ask Casuarius.).

    We assume that emus eschew places with really long cold winters because there is too little food, and the cold causes the birds to ‘burn up’ fat too fast.

    On the ‘human side,’ the bottom line is not people per se, but uncrossable fences. Emus are brash and curious, and will come close to houses – that is, to people and even dogs – to get to food. Emus thrive around people if they can access high-protein food, like crops, and water. They do this by crossing fences. This though, is an emu strategy for rural areas. Emus don’t adapt to towns and cities as English foxes have.

    Twelve: now a couple of literary references from S.E.’s library:

    Aranda Traditions, by Strehlow:

    Firstly, guys, here’s a map of W.A.’s deserts:


    ‘Kay, for all non-Australian readers, we are stepping out into tres inhospitable country, to the point at which populations of people and emus ‘peter out.’

    The Aranda’s territory is NW of the Simpson Desert. We may assume that there are emus here because there’s a great photo of three dancers playing the parts of Dad and chicks.

    So, there may or may not be emus in the desert; but there are emus (check map) in the ‘space’ between all the deserts, which is where the Aranda where. My first guess would be that if people aren’t living out there, then emus probably aren’t living out there. Australian aboriginals have more water sources – like dew collected in a container from morning grass – than critters.

    I, the aboriginal, Douglas Lockwood

    ‘He made tracks with the tip of his finger . . . He made the tracks of turtles, goannas, emus, crocodiles, porcupines [means ‘echidnas’], birds, cattle, and horses, and told me to copy them.’

    Guys, it’s a no-brainer that the speaker, Waipuldanya, had emus in his tribal territory, up near Arnhem Land. My point is that we could certainly determine a great deal about the range of the emu from anthropological accounts and dictionaries – if people got a word for a thing, then that thing is in their world!

    [You’ll get this text cheaply on Amazon. Great read, if you are interested in Australian history.]


    The People in between: The Pitjantjatjara People of Ernabella, Hilliard

    A century ago, a white Australian witnessed the Pitjantjatjara hunting emus:

    ‘ . . . a small water-hole in the vicinity of Ernabella. Such water-holes are the venues of bird and animal life as well as the tribesmen.’

    Readers, before I go on, this territory – the Tanami Desert of the Pitjantjatjara – is ‘lodestone’: if an emu can live out there, it can live on the face of the sun.

    [My books-to-buy list includes The Lizard Eaters, also by Lockwood. It’s also about the Pitjantjatjara, and I highly recommend it. I’ll post some emu info from it when it turns up.]

    What is noteworthy about the passage in Hilliard’s text is the sense that emus aren’t necessarily common. The hunters see the tracks, and set out to kill the emus in question. This is satisfying to us. Deserts are not stable, and perhaps emus and people penetrate and retreat to and from different parts of them according to the seasons. S.E. has read somewhere – I have no reference – that it is aboriginal custom to hunt on poor territory in good times, which leaves the good territory for poor times. Brilliant strategy!

    Here below is one map that makes more sense. Put it side by side with the map of the W.A. deserts. See that the range of emus marked on the map coincides pretty well with the ‘non-desert’ areas?

    ‘Kay, enough for today!

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  2. kathyinmo

    kathyinmo Nothing In Moderation

    following along, for sure!
  3. Tame Emu Guy

    Tame Emu Guy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Guys, the emu in the Arkive photo at the very bottom . . . it's just gotta be a woodwardi!! If this bird were among the emus here, it would stand out quite clearly -- skinny! Fewer feathers!

  4. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    I'm watching...urrr, reading. : )
  5. Tame Emu Guy

    Tame Emu Guy Chillin' With My Peeps

    Check out Gould’s painting of emus at the top of the post.

    Did anyone note it’s remarkable accuracy? We now know that the female does pay attention to the incubation of, at least, her ‘primary mate.’ Greedy literally stood guard as Boy Emu’s chicks hatched.

    Now look at the photo. It’s That Moment, readers: the male is about to re-plonk down on the last two eggs, which must hatch shortly or be abandoned, and the female is standing guard!!


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