Tales of the TailsThey Say I’m Emusing
August 21, 2017
Take a stroll through the Australia Walkabout and you’ll find this tall, flightless bird duo scoping out their wallaby and kangaroo neighbors, as well as guests, with their deep red eyes. If you’re quiet, you can actually hear their unique calls, which sound like drums echoing in the distance. But what could this strange bird be? Well you’re about to be emused, because today you’re going to learn all about the Zoo’s EMUS!
In 2009, the Zoo opened its first kangaroo exhibit, which was then renovated and re-opened as the Australia Walkabout in 2015 as an immersive experience where guests can walk through an exhibit of kangaroo and wallabies, as well as emus.
In the Australia section of the zoo, guests can see (and hear) our pair of emus, Emus and Schilling, who both arrived at the Zoo in 2010. Although guests may not be able to tell the pair apart, their preferences on food and enrichment help distinguish between the two.
Schilling is the Zoo’s male emu. He was hatched in March of 2007 at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Emus (“Emuss”), the female emu, was hatched in July of 2008 at a farm in Virginia. Both ratites stand around six feet tall. For those who don’t know, a ratite is another word for a flightless bird. Emus aren’t the only ratites you may be familiar with; Ostriches, rheas, cassowaries, and kiwis are also unable to fly.
A typical day for Schilling and Emus includes eating around two pounds of produce, including apples, greens and grapes, and one pound of ratite grain. The birds also occasionally eat rocks and pebbles, which help in digestion and the break-down of food.
The pair also receive enrichment throughout the day, which can consist of their favorite foods or activities. For Schilling, taking a bath in a water sprinkler is a hobby you’ll find him doing quite frequently. Emus will often join Schilling in bathing, but she tends to interactwith shiny things for enrichment, like mirrors.
Emus are the second largest species of bird, second to the ostrich and slightly larger in height than the cassowary. They have three toes on each foot, with large talons that aid in defense when escaping from a predator. Emus can also run up to 30 miles per hour, which helps keep them out of the face of danger.
Something unique about emus is the color of the eggs they lay. Instead of having white or egg-shell colored eggs, emu eggs are actually emerald green. This coloring is used as camouflage. Emus lay their eggs in tall grass, blending in so predators can’t find them as easily.
In the wild, emus can live up to 15 years old. In human care the birds can live even longer, sometimes up to 30 years old! Emu populations in Australia are stable and their conservation status is listed as Least Concern.
Be sure to take a stroll through the Australia Walkabout on your next visit to the Zoo to see Emus and Schilling out and about!
Has this month’s Tales of the Tails Animal Story been emusing to you? Be sure to check out next month’s story on our Southern White rhinos!