Planet Rothschildi

Discussion in 'Ostriches, Emu, Rheas' started by Tame Emu Guy, Oct 8, 2012.

  1. Welcome to Planet Rothschildi, home of all things emu. It seems to make more sense than having lots of brief threads:

    I haven’t paid enough attention to the cycle of emu life. Although I ‘ve been avidly observing for over four years now, it’s all been rather haphazard. My new project – health notwithstanding – shall be to give you guys some insight into The Cycle of It All:

    got no life to speak of? Then you can analyse emu blessings!: last Autumn I noticed that blessings contain lots and lots of grass seeds. Winter is Lean Times – grass mush, unless you are the Elite of the House-Clearing. Well, yesterday I noticed that blessings are full of the little ‘buttons’ in the middle of little yellow flowers.

    I haven’t seen a clutch of chicks yet, though I haven’t been out observing much yet. Saw some wild birds over at Oudman’s, and was pleased to see that they came and went according to the guesses that we made in Winter about movement patterns. Learning how parenting males with clutches relate to the flocks is a thing worth learning. Check the Miniature Gallery I posted some months ago. There's a video there of birds in the wild. You need to watch closely to see that the ten birds in the clip are an adult and nine chicks. The chicks are almost adult -- but the nine of them are still with dad!

    It’s lovely to be able to walk down to the block of gums on Coffey’s fenceline – the 'Top Corner' – and see wild birds. It’s almost a no brainer; there will be at least one group of birds in an aisle there. However, as the litter in the gum aisles dry – Summer arrives here, U.S. readers, like a slap upside the head – it becomes very difficult to move quietly.

    The Palace Coup Thing: I had a great talk with a local woman who couldn’t care less about emus – but she’s been breeding birds for meat forever, and she immediately understood the ‘competing alpha birds’ thing in the house-clearing here. I am guilty of not considering chronology (I’ve just been so ill. I can only apologise.) For example, I note somewhere that Felicity was absent for seven months at one time – but was that during the breeding-season before last? Goodness: I wasn’t paying enough attention. The point is clear though: if Felicity was absent during the 2011 breeding-season, that tells us something about whether two females can share the same turf. Heavens, for all we know, Felicity has bred!
    My point is – opinions please – do you think that this Dynamic New Felicity is a bird who’s determined to mate; has seen her sibling successfully do so; and is gonna kick butt until she does too? but naturally enough wants to do on her home turf?

    No sighting of Boy Emu Plus Clutch. I guess that they aren’t miles away. I’d be thrilled to see them.

    The Palace Coup Thing: have you forgotten Eric, readers? Felicity may displace Greedy; but in doing so, she puts herself in the ring with Eric, who will surely arrive in about six weeks to tax the plums. (Plums come on first. Figs last. All up, five solid months of fruit.) I look forward to bringing you a report about Felicity squaring off with Eric. Supreme Emu gonna sit in his director’s chair in the sunshine in the clearing to get a ringside seat to that blue!!

    Every bird has a different personality: Greedy won’t come into the backyard. Eric will zip through to side gate and out the top gate. Mrs Eric will cross the having-a-little-rest fence, to tax those plums that fall inside the yard. If you sit very very very quietly on the bench in the garden, she’ll come quite close to you – plums are prized tucker.

    Speckles, Greedy’s new consort, is really surprisingly tame. He allowed me to approach him to get a photo while he was breakfasting in the old sheep-yards. That’s noteworthy, guys: wild birds loathe to be ‘constrained’ in any way, and to enter the yards is to be constrained.

    Supreme Emu
  2. Is it uncommon for emus to hatch out 9 chicks at a time? Are baby emus actually called chicks? e.g chick - chicken, duckling - duck, gosiling - goose?
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  3. Raptor65

    Raptor65 Chirping

    Jan 15, 2012
    Well I suppose it's either that or Emullets.
  4. Hi ya, B.R.

    Neighbours of mine -- forty years on their block -- say they've seen clutches of eight and nine. There were at least eight chicks in the clutch that I stumbled on last mating-season.

    I think 'chick' is right -- but is 'clutch' the right word? Australians use the word 'mob' as a catchall, just as we never never ever say 'chicken,' only 'chook.' I wouldn't be surprised to hear someone say, 'a mob of emus' -- but not a 'mob'of chicks.'

    Check out 'wild emus australia' on Youtube. I've been hoping to get opinions on this: if these 'chicks' are chicks, then they are 99% grown, almost adults -- but are they chicks or adults? They are either almost-grown chicks or a taxa of emus that have black heads . . . like chicks.

    While we are on the subject, when did 'emu' become the plural of 'emu'?

    And finally, does anyone know the scientific names for male and female emus? They are 'he-mu' and 'she-mu' wa ha ha

    Last edited: Oct 8, 2012
  5. [​IMG]

    Wild Chicks and The Secret World

    Today we’re off to The Secret World that is the centre of this plantation. You’ve heard people talk of a carpet of wildflowers. Well, here are a couple:



    Apart from the short strip of fence where the corridor meets the Coffey’s swamp paddock, this entire 600-acre area is sealed from the world by gums. In the middle is the swamp that I wrote about in relation to the Category Six – pre-historic – birds’ environment.

    So we head north-west from the house – first time ever. Ten minutes later, we reach the edge of the Secret World:


    More than anything, I hoped to spot some chicks, and to learn a little about the Spring-time movement dynamic of the wild birds. I’ve seen a couple of dozen in the last fortnight, including a charming string of five birds crossing a clearing in single file. The groups were threes and fours, but no chicks – where are the chicks?

    Eventually, I actually left the secret world, and crossed the boundary fence into an adjoining block of gums, to an area, in fact, that I’ve never visited. Cool! I found a swimming-dam hidden away.

    I wanted to check for sign of birds in that area. There were blessings, but their density suggests that birds within a two-mile radius of the house-clearing know that the block of gums at Top Corner – where we aren’t going today – is the place to be. I also checked several blessings – no worms. But look at this one. The white ‘strings’ are three-inch-plus worms. Comments, please: is that fairly normal? Is that bad? I have seen small worms before, but nothing like this:


    I then moseyed into a block of gums with moderate litter, a mix of sticks and fair grass. The litter is already dry, and the sound of walking on it shall be a real complication for our observations.

    Then I saw an adult emu about fifty feet away. He didn’t call, but jogged about thirty feet and propped. Next time, I’ll know what I am seeing: he had five (six?) chicks with him, and I didn’t immediately see them because I was trying to focus the binos on him. They all moved at right angles to me, into an adjoining aisle.

    Now, here is a fairly clear bit of data: wild birds in the open will, nine times out of ten, bolt. Full stop. They’ll run until they’re out of sight. Well, I don’t think a parenting male does that.

    Now it becomes fun: I moved quietly across to the next aisle, and saw another male with another five chicks. They were different clutches. The chicks in the first were twice the size of the chicks in the second. The second male did exactly the same thing: propped, and moved with his chicks to the next aisle. I followed, and managed to kneel and watch them moving away. They weren’t running flat out, more like jog-trotting, and just as cute as buttons. No vocalisations from any of these twelve birds.
    So, I ruckon terrain such as this – aisles with fair grass – is a safer bet overall, for a male with a young-ish clutch, than outright open country, where the chicks would need to run long distances to safety. The males were clearly geared to the fact of the chicks’ slow speed. They didn’t advance on me, but they stood while the chicks moved, then followed. Let’s see if future observations bear this out.

    Next, we crossed back into my place, and slipped through to the Secret World for the adventure part of today’s jaunt, going into the swamp. ‘Kay, look carefully at the photo below. See the white-trunked tree in mid-foreground? See the uneven greener trees at the back/across to the right? See the slightly-less-green band of trees between them? That’s the swamp. I was already ankle-deep in water when I took this shot. In the old days, you coulda got a wheelbarrow load of freshwater lobster here at times – and a whole lot of other yummy stuff.


    Now, we’re only ever gonna do this the once, boys and girls. My neighbours would slap me upside the head if they knew I’d been wandering around in this swamp in Spring in sand shoes, and with – my usual mode – a patch over one eye. There are aggressive and seriously venomous snakes in here, and the water is thigh deep in places. Whatever, we skirt around to the North, where there’s a spot where you can ‘punch’ your way in, and voila:




    Once you’re in . . .you’re in. Completely sealed in a cool silent world. It’s uncanny. There are people who’ve lived within ten miles of it for thirty or forty years and never been in it. I took two friends in several years ago – though not in Spring, in Winter. One was my friend’s nine-year-old daughter, who wants to be Nature Girl when she grows up. She rode on my shoulders, and we sank to top-of-thighs deep in the very middle. I nearly froze on the walk back to the house afterwards, but she thought that riding Uncle Mark around in the Harry Potter swamp was as cool as a moose. My mate Ken – you remember him from the Mating-Season thread – has been coming here since the mid-60’s.
    ‘Kay, the first of the three photos above shows paperbarks. The tree below is a ‘moych’ (?) or a ‘yate.’ It is this second species that you can see sticking up in the photo taken from outside the swamp.


    The photo below is taken from a high and dry spot between several trunks. I once came down on a fine mid-winter’s day, rugged up like the Michelen Man, and sat here to read. You can see the ‘tide mark’ on the trees in this shot.


    Now we are on our way out. You can just see the world appearing through the swamp trees.


    On the way home, I got this photo for Emu Hugger. This is prehistoric plant gone wrong.


    Supreme Emu
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  6. An encounter with wild chicks goes like this (but I doubt we can get photos until next year.):

    you are walking at right angles through rows of gums. You realise that there’s a lone adult emu standing looking at you about fifty feet away. Then you notice a row of emu chicks’ heads sticking up on one side of the adult. Then the adult starts moving, and the little row of heads momentarily disappears as the chicks all go into head-down-tail-up motion. Then, for just a second, you get to try to count the chicks as they bob and weave among the litter as they follow dad, who is moving away, but not so fast that the chicks can’t follow.

    Okay, wild-emu-chick lovers, we’ve found the nursery! The reason I haven’t spotted any clutches moving around here is because my place isn’t a good place to raise kids. I went back to what we shall call ‘The 500,’ the block to the north-west of my place, where I saw the chicks in the report above.

    Now, apart from being horribly the same, the gum plantations are different in ways. The 500 is a semi-failure: there are lots of gaps between the trees; but there is little litter between the trees. Instead, there is an abundance of grass and clover and little yellow flowers.

    I went out this morning to look for chicks in the same place as last time. When I reached the fence that separates my place from The 500, I sat down to rest and scan the open spaces on either side. When I looked up . . . there was a bird watching me. This time I recognised the pattern: the chicks were beside him – but there were two clutches, I think. I saw only one adult, but I saw chicks of two sizes. So I guess that the two clutches were together, but that I didn’t see the second male. The chicks, again, were surprisingly different in size – and could it be the same two clutches? Territorial? It was only about two hundred yards from the last sighting. There were, I think, more than six chicks in one clutch. I only saw several of the smaller chicks.

    My theory has been strenthened a little then: the male keeps the chicks in an area with good food and plenty of cover. There’s no logic in taking them out onto large open areas. If this is the general case, then The 500 is the best place around here to raise chicks, and we’ll continue observing chicks there. Hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to observe a clutch that hasn’t seen me.

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
  7. Perfect Observation of Wild Chicks

    Guys, this is ‘unaffiliated scholarship’: watching wild emu chicks through binoculars from a distance of about sixty or seventy feet – close – for fifteen minutes without them ever seeing you.

    Here’s the technique: stop about a hundred yards short of The 500, and watch for some minutes, to check that you won’t stumble on a clutch, and ruin the whole gig. Then stop at fifty yards, and watch again. Then you have to cross the open ground and the fence, to get into the block. That’s unfortunate, but it must be done. Observe before you cross. Then settle into a pile of gum-litter a couple of rows in, and observe for some time. Scout a better spot, then move to it. Stay there for the duration.

    Here’s a note on wind:

    emus hate wind. It makes them skittish. Observing on windy days like today is always hard. Emu life goes on, so the emus are there; but you are less likely to hear them, and more likely to blunder upon them, and ‘observe’ only emu tooshes fleeing into the distance. The benefit for the observer is that if she can ‘get the drop’ on the birds, they are much less likely to see her: the movement of everything else masks small movements of hers, and the noise made by the wind likewise masks small noises she makes. On a truly still day, an emu will hear and be alarmed by the snap of a single twig a hundred or more feet away – surprise surprise, emus have sharp ears.

    So, about an hour after I ‘started my approach,’ I was lying snuggled down into a pile of litter, about fifty yards in from the fence, watching a vector of about ninety degrees upwind of me. More than about ninety degrees is no good because it requires significant movement. If only about ninety, you can ‘sweep’ the section slowly, without making any sudden moves. The vector was across several rows of gums with trees missing, which makes for a ‘gap-toothed effect.’ Just right. It was a spot that I thought was ideal for a male with chicks to graze in: clover, grass, little yellow flowers; plenty of cover; not too far from water.

    You must patiently 'get into' the binos. You use your fingers to seal the gaps between your eyes and the bino eyepieces. What you see at first is sort of leafy wall, but after ten or fifteen minutes, you see what is near and what is far.

    About twenty minutes later, I was startled to realise that there were ('in the binos') two wild emu chicks grazing under a gum tree right smack in front of me. All I needed to do was to keep perfectly still, which I did for about fifteen or perhaps even twenty minutes. Here’s what I observed:

    no vocalisations. The chicks never strayed further than about ten or twelve feet from the parent. All readers know that all emus always lift their heads to check for danger about every seven seconds or so. In the case of the clutch-guardian, it’s the other way around: the male spends most of his time with his head up, looking around. We assume that windy days are highly problematic for him because a predator could likely get much closer than it could, say, in the perfect stillness of dawn. Hence their windy-day skittishness. So, some seconds of watching, then a peck at something on the ground.

    The chicks are hilarious because they are exact miniatures of adults, except for not having toosh-feathers. They peck happily away, and stop to scratch their tooshes.

    Once, for no discernible reason, the male became alarmed, and stood tall and still. The chicks responded with a military discipline: all immediately faced dad, and carefully watched him. Their collective movement was like a ripple crossing a pond. Then dad relaxed, and the chicks relaxed. It wasn’t till then that I saw the fifth chick – so it could even be the same clutch I saw last time.

    At about this time, guys, I remembered that I had my mobile phone – turned off – in my pocket. It took some minutes to get it out and turned on. I did it in stages, a movement each time the adult had his head turned away. The stupid ‘dum de dum dum dum’ sound as the phone fired up sounded loud enough to wake the dead. No apologies for the photo. I took one, blind, and dropped the phone into the litter.

    The group eventually ‘grazed’ away, and I withdrew unseen.

    Nope! The photo is a fizzer. The birds are out of frame to the left – but anyway, this is a ‘nursery’ as described above. I will keep trying to get photos. I’ve seen four clutches in three visits -- but an observation as good as this is a rare and beautiful thing.

    Supreme Emu

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2012
  8. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    Beautiful photos S.E. I enjoy them...especially the crazy plant. interesting observations.... We are learning much about the wild ways of wild Emu. Thought on speckles. ...since.he seems somewhat tame in ways..I have a feeling he had interaction with people as a youngster.
  9. Hi, E.H.

    Has Speckles been around people? Now, I gotst to say that I just can’t imagine where that might have happened; but . . . that was almost my first thought when I first saw him: ‘Wow! This bird is strangely tame! Perhaps he’s been around people.’ Interestingly, though, there’s a Youtube clip called ‘When Aussie Emu’s Go Bad.’ It was filmed at Nyamup, about 40 miles away. For reference, the birds in the clip must be rothschildi, and look at their tooshes!!

    I enjoy both ‘having the BYC members with me’ when I’m observing, and also knowing that, together, we are slowly slowly putting together the pieces of the puzzle. The swamp is not just amazing, it’s also a piece of the puzzle – and we’ll come back to that; but I personally love the place. It’s crazy crazy crazy being in there. Another world.

  10. Mid-Spring Report
    Hi, everyone!

    One: today I saw another clutch of chicks down at The 500. When I got back here, I checked the Mating-Season thread. We observed Mr. and Mrs. Eric mating at the beginning of April. That means that chicks from that mating could have hatched just before mid-June; and that means that chicks that I saw here in the wild today could be four months old – sixteen weeks.

    Now let’s add some detail. Supreme Emu has stumbled upon the nursery. During the first three trips to The 500, I saw four clutches (and three parent males). The chicks in those first four clutches ranged from super-cute small, striped and cream in colour, to chicks about 150% bigger, and more of an ash grey colour.

    Indeed, I didn’t get a great look at the chicks in the clutch I saw today (though for other reasons it was a good observation. For example, they didn’t see me.) – but the chicks were surprisingly big, and already quite dark in colour.

    Otherwise, the 500 is amazing, guys! Three of the clutches I have seen in an area less than a hundred yards square. I’m looking forward to going there again and again. If you have questions, do ask.

    Two: meanwhile, females etc. are grazing over at the Top Corner and on the Corridor – but the Top Corner is more popular. The grass is truly lush. There’s a reality that readers should understand about the weather here. It’s raining at this second, Spring rain. Feed in the district is still plentiful; but every year, in lots of places in Oz – and Australians seem to get caught out by it every year, as though it’s unpredicatable – summer hits with a vengeance.

    I’m talkin’ here about a state that has towns where the temperature gets to 110 degrees in the first month of Spring (woodwardi range). So, that lush grass takes a real hammering as the temperatures climb. It got to almost 110 here in Summer a couple of years ago. The ‘green pick,’ as the farmers call it, shrinks from a million acres to a thousand to a dozen to . . . the kangaroos jump the fence to get into my backyard to eat the patch that grows over the septic tank. It gets bare.

    My point here is that perhaps the birds really ‘get into’ their grazing in Spring, trying to ‘bulk up,’ after Winter, on those little yellow flowers and the first seeds that become ripe. Remember last Autumn I said that birds swap from peck-peck-peck to crop-crop-crop? Well, now they are getting back to peck-peck-peck. All the birds’ blessing are full of the ‘buttons’ from the flowers. Could someone who knows tell me: the grass seeds that the birds eat in profusion in Autumn – they’re highly nutritious, aren’t they?
    The males deserve special mention. They starve during incubation, and they must now be working hard to stuff themselves as they guard the chicks. I’m going to watch for this from now on.

    Three: meanwhile meanwhile, here in the house-clearing . . . where are the emus? I have only seen Greedy and Speckles and Felicity since Boy Emu left with the clutch. Felicity is queen again, and back to her homebody self, and G. and S. have cruised through a few times. Otherwise, not a single wild bird have I seen. The plums and peaches and apricots are far from ready – but they are visible. So, we can look forward to Mr. and Mrs. Eric turning up. Kathyinmo won the bet about this most recent stoush for control for the house-clearing: she was right; Felicity won. But I will put my head on the block again: Felicity won’t beat Eric!!

    Supreme Emu

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