fledgling and parental care
Emu Nesting FAQs
Emus are a giant bird in the flightless ratite family, which includes other large birds such as cassowaries and ostriches. Emus, which live only in Australia, are fascinating for their female-dominated society and reproductive system.
This is a guide to emu nesting, including hatching, egg laying and nest building.
Emu nests are crude, consisting of small mounds of leaves or grass, sometimes spread in shallow indentations dug into the ground.
Female emus are larger than males and mate with multiple partners during the same breeding season. Once the female lays eggs, the male takes care of the hatching duties and cares for the chicks.
Hatching takes a grueling 50 to 60 days, during which time the male does not leave the nest to eat, drink or defecate – he can lose up to a third of his body weight!
Of course, there’s still a lot to learn about this interesting bird, so read on to find out!
Emu nests are extremely simple and generally consist of a small pile of grass blades
Do emus have nests?
Emus do have dens, but they are built on the floor rather than trees. Male emus build their nests, sometimes on flat ground or in narrow cavities up to 10 cm deep.
The nest area is about 1 to 2 meters wide. Some nests are loosely covered with grass and leaves, especially in cold weather, but this depends on the area and what is available. The resulting structure looks like a pile of roughly circular plant fragments.
Do emus nest in the same place every year?
Emus are nomadic, moving north and south throughout the year, often tracking rainfall as this signals plant growth and therefore food and water.
Emus return to the same breeding grounds most of the time, but there is no evidence that they return to the same nesting sites every year. Breeding sites are selected based on the availability of food and water, as these factors are critical to the survival of the chicks.
How tall is an emu nest?
Emu nests are sometimes completely flat, especially in relatively warm conditions. They’re not tall at all, basically the roughly round shape of a roughly assembled bunch of branches and leaves.
However, if the weather is colder than usual, the male may dig a recess of about 7 to 10 centimeters, as this increases insulation and keeps the eggs warm.
Closeup of two unhatched emu eggs in a nest
What does an emu nest look like?
Emu nests are built on flat ground or loosely scraped into the dirt. They look nothing like them, they look like shallow pits filled with leaves, twigs, and grass.
Some nests are more elaborately designed as circles or small mounds, with the eggs in a central depression, while others look like a mess of twigs and grass. Some males put more energy into the nest than others.
How big is an emu nest?
Emu nests are large, about 1 to 2 meters wide and up to 10 centimeters deep.
Emus are large birds and their eggs are very large, about 13 cm long. As a result, the dens are also large – big enough for emus to squat on them comfortably!
Close up of an emu nest in the wild in Australia
Where do emus nest?
Emu are divided into three subspecies, found in northern, southeastern and southwestern Australia.
Each subspecies moves widely northward in summer and southward in winter. The nest itself is built in an open area with little surrounding vegetation to provide shelter and camouflage.
The study found that most nests were built near some kind of tree or foliage cover, rather than in exposed areas.
How long do emus nest?
Emu breeding season lasts from around February until June, which is winter in Australia.
Breeding is often synchronized with cooling temperatures, as this also means higher food and water availability. Breeding seasons do vary, however, and emus have been documented to breed at unpredictable times of the year.
The males incubate the eggs for about 48 to 56 days, but after the chicks hatch, they can walk and leave the nest within 1 to 3 days. Therefore, the spawning period ends immediately after the eggs hatch.
In what month do emus lay eggs?
Emus start pairing around December to January, and the females usually lay their eggs between April and June, which is the Australian winter. Some emu populations spawn earlier and may spawn as early as November.
A study of emus in New South Wales, southeastern Australia, showed that they most commonly lay their eggs in May and June.
However, the breeding season is flexible and depends on environmental conditions such as temperature and rainfall—if an area is too dry, the breeding season may even be abandoned altogether.
Breeding a pair of emus in Australia
How Do Emus Build Nests?
Male emus build their nests by digging a loose cavity in the soil. Sometimes the nest is completely flat with no indentations — especially when it’s warm. He will then line the nest with some leaves and grass. That’s it – emu nests are simple and don’t take much work.
Since the emu breeding system is female-dominated, the male does all the work and incubates the eggs alone, without assistance from the female. Females usually walk away to mate again, but may linger to protect the rest and keep company with males.
What do emus use to build their nests?
Emus nest using leaves and grasses to cover or line their nests.
Do male or female emus nest?
The reproductive and social system of emus is female-dominated, and the female mates with multiple males who incubate eggs and raise young.
The male emu builds the nest and the female emu lays eggs – sometimes multiple female emus lay eggs in the same nest – and the male emu incubates them for about 50 to 56 days.
During this time, he rarely left the nest and lost a lot of weight – in some cases by as much as a third.
Closeup of a male emu hatching an egg in a nest
What do emu eggs look like?
Emu eggs are large, about 13 x 9 cm and weigh up to 650 grams. They are oval in shape, dark emerald green, and have a rough shell.
How many eggs do emus lay?
Female emus usually lay a clutch of 5 to 20 eggs, but the average is around 8 to 10 eggs. During a single breeding season, a single female may lay three clutches or a total of as many as 50 eggs.
Do male emus sit on eggs?
The male emu is responsible for all hatching duties and remains in the nest for approximately 48 to 56 days. At no point throughout the hatching process do they leave the nest, except by stretching their long necks to move morning dew on nearby leaves.
Men may lose a third of their body weight. Meanwhile, the female will usually wander around to mate with another male, but may wander around to defend the nest in some cases.
Closeup of three emu eggs
fledgling and parental care
When do baby emus leave the nest?
Baby emus are naturally precocious, meaning they hatch highly developed and covered in fluffy down. They are ambulatory within hours of hatching and will start roaming around the nest within 1 to 3 days.
Young birds are dependent on their fathers for 3 to 4 months before leaving to join a nearby herd.
How many litters do emus have?
A female emu may have 2 to 3 litters per breeding season. Once she has mated with a male and produced a litter, she usually walks away to mate with another male.
There are exceptions, as some emu pairs have been observed to be essentially monogamous. But generally, females are polyandrous, mating with multiple males in a single season. This is necessary to keep emu numbers high enough to sustain the population.
Male emus do most of the work when it comes to hatching and raising chicks
Emu Nesting FAQs
Do emus abandon their nests?
Once the male emu has settled down to perform his brooding duties, he will not move for the entire period of 50 to 60 days. He won’t eat, drink or have a bowel movement and has lost about a third of his body weight.
Emus try to nest in protected spots away from predators. If the nest is attacked, the male will hiss at the intruder. Emus are fierce rivals and will not give up their nests easily. Any nearby females may also join in defending the nest.
Do emus nest on the ground?
Emus are flightless birds that spend their entire lives on the ground. They nest on the ground, either on flat land or in shallow pits dug into the soil.
Where do emus nest at night?
Emus perched on the ground. They are well camouflaged in the Australian bush.
Do emus lay eggs or give birth?
Emus, like all birds, lay eggs. The female lays a clutch of eggs, which the male incubates alone.
How long are emus pregnant?
Emus, like all birds, cannot conceive. Instead, females lay eggs, which are fertilized by males. She then begins laying eggs, which are hatched and hatched.
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