Facts About Emus: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Did you know that some birds swallow rocks? In this lesson, you'll find out why emus swallow rocks and how these rocks help them. You'll also find out some other interesting facts about emus, one of the world's biggest birds.

Rock Eating Birds?

If I told you that emus are birds that like to ''rock,'' I wouldn't mean they dance to music! These large birds ''rock'' in a different way; they eat them! Why would emus eat rocks? Emus are very ancient birds; in fact, they've been living on the continent of Australia for over 80 million years! Some dinosaurs also swallowed rocks, for the same reason that emus do; the rocks help them break down, or digest, the food they eat. These rocks, called gastroliths, help emus grind up the food in their gizzards, which is part of their digestive system.

Watch Those Feet!

Emus are one of the largest living birds. They can grow to be about five feet tall and can weigh more than 100 pounds, which is larger than some people. Emus have long legs that end in large three-toed feet. Their bodies are covered with dark, grayish-brown, shaggy feathers. Emus have reddish-brown eyes and black beaks.


Don't let their big feet fool you! They may look clumsy, but emus can actually run up to 30 miles per hour. They also will use their feet to kick people or other animals if they feel unsafe. One toe on each foot has a sharp claw, called a talon, which they use for fighting. Their legs are very powerful. Strangely, emus can't walk backwards! They also can't fly, although they do have very small wings.

Emus' Habitat and Food

At one time, emus lived throughout the island of Australia and on the island of Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and King Island. Today, they only live in Australia. You can find them in many different kinds of habitats, including grassland, dry forests, and areas that are partially desert, but they aren't found in tropical forests in Northern Australia.

Emus are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Emus eat many different foods, including fruits, plant shoots, insects, seeds, and some small animals. Emus have been known to travel hundreds of miles looking for food.

Young Emus

The male emu builds a nest in the grass, using sticks, grass, bark, and leaves. The female emu lays between five and fifteen large eggs in the nest; each egg is about five inches long and can weigh up to one pound. One emu egg is as large as a dozen chicken eggs put together! After the female lays the eggs, she leaves the nest and the male takes over.

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