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By Filip Lazar

The ostrich and the emu are two of the most interesting birds on earth. Their abilities are fascinating. They have striking similarities and differences as well.

First, we will consider the ostrich, whose scientific name is Struthio camelus.

 

The ostrich was often called the camel bird, because of its long neck, prominent eyes, and brushing eyelashes. The ostrich is the largest bird on earth. Males have gallant black and white plumage. Females, on the other hand, are light-toned brown. The ostrich has two toes and very powerful legs.

They lay very heavy eggs, and the shell can support a weight of 113 kilograms. Their lifespan varies from 30 to 40 years in the wild.

Being one of the fastest birds on earth, it can attain speeds of 70 kilometres per hour. Ostrich habitats are mainly the grass savannahs of Africa. Although they live in groups of about a dozen individuals, when rain is scarce, ostriches gather in large “herds” led by a superior female ostrich known as hen. They can often be seen with herds of wildebeests, zebras, and African buffaloes.

The ostrich’s wings aid running and they also enable the huge bird to make sudden turns. Ostriches are diurnal birds. They are mainly omnivores, feeding on roots, seeds, and leaves. However, they can also eat insects, lizards, snakes, and even small rodents.

Their eggs are used as human food. But humans aren’t the only ones who feed on ostrich eggs. Certain snakes and vultures also enjoy a meal of ostrich eggs. Snakes swallow the eggs whole, while vultures usually drop stones to break the egg’s shell and feed on the contents.

The ostrich is also farmed for its feathers, hide, and meat. A very unusual fact about the ostrich is that they have three stomachs.

A kick from one of the ostrich’s sturdy legs can kill a human, or any other predator. They can cover 5 metres in a single stride.

Emu

The emu is a very similar bird to the ostrich, but smaller. Its scientific name is Dromaius novaehollandiae.

Generally, emus are brown with a light blue neck. They have vestigial wings, with the wing chord at around 20 centimetres. Emus have a little claw at the tip of each wing.

The emu is the only bird in the world with gastrocnemius muscles, which are located in the back of the lower leg. The emu is the largest bird native to Australia. Its usual habitat is the woodlands, scrublands, and the grassy plains of Australia. The emu is a nomadic bird. It wanders from place to place, avoiding deserts.

Emus are also largely omnivores. Their diet is made up of seeds, flowers, fruit, and insects. They can also jump over fences to feed on wheat and other crops that farmers grow. Although emus like to be near water, they do not drink very often. But when they do drink, they can imbibe water for 10 minutes without stopping.

Emus have a unique way of going to sleep. First they enter a dozing state in which they can react quickly to danger. Should there be any disturbance, the emu is quickly on its feet. If there isn’t any kind of trouble, however, their head slowly lowers down, and in about 20 minutes they are fast asleep. When they sleep, the emus mimic a small mound, a camouflage tactic. They usually wake up every ninety minutes to make sure no danger is lurking about. In total the emu sleeps for about seven hours a day.

Emus have very few natural predators. The dingo is one of the few enemies of the emu. The emu usually jumps and kicks them off! The wedge-tailed eagle is a very difficult predator. It will come down towards the emu at an incredible speed and so the emu’s only solution is to run in a zig-zag path. Like the ostrich, this bird noted for its fair speed which is about 30 miles (48 km) per hour.

The emu is also farmed for their leather, meat, and oil. The oil made from the emu fat is used for cosmetics and dietary supplements. The dark green or dark blue eggs of the emu are also used as food.

Philip Lazar is a 12-year-old 7th grade pupil in Brasov, Romania. He has been writing about animals for some time.

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