Notes from the Emu Homeland

Supreme Emu

9 Years
Jun 8, 2010
Their camouflage is extraordinary. The colours of eucalyptus country are black and white and grey and green and brown; and the first time you see an emu in such country, you realise how well adapted they are, especially when sunlight dapples through the trees. When they move, you see the movement. The moment they stop, they disappear.
Last week, I crawled on my belly the length of a fallen gum to view some emus that I saw before they saw me – none too usual. A male and eight chicks were grazing in the open, and I watched them for several minutes.
If you sit quietly in the bush – sometimes for an hour or more – emus (and roos) may pass through. Last month a male with three chicks passed by at about fifty yards, and never saw me. (They travel in single file in denser country, and in a mob in the open.)
I have had as many as ten wild emus in the house-clearing, where there are fruit trees. My three now defend their territory against their dad and all others. Other 'cousins' drift in, and ghost about on the bottom side of the fig tree, which abuts the gums. Chicks too scared to emerge stand and wait further back. You see only a little row of black heads. At the finish of the fig season, there is a distinct track worn around the perimeter of the two trees, where emus have gone around and around. They will stand under a fruit tree, and jump off the ground to grab pieces of fruit. It's hilarious to watch, straight up, a foot or more, with feathers flopping, their legs splaying weirdly before them.
It's mating season here, and you can hear the females drumming at surprising distance – something like a mile, and including at night.
If I take my emus walking through the bush – we've been to the Frankland River and back, which is a total of six miles – I can watch them eating as they go. When they seem to eat something, I pull some off and offer it to them. ('Yummy for emus? Yummy for emus?') If they scoff it up, then I know they like it.
Sometimes, usually on a windless day, they will sink quietly to their knees, then to their bellies, then lay half their necks on the ground, and sit in the sunshine, barely moving, for an hour or more at a time.
They have a distinct 'alarm procedure' in the wild: if they see something, they prop. Then they stand stock-still, looking in the direction of the threat. Then they break suddenly, and run hell for leather for as much as six or eight hundred yards.

Mark Blair
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