Emu vs. Ostrich

Emu vs. Ostrich

Ostrich and emu are the largest birds in the world. They belong to the group ratite, which includes large, flightless birds. Both emu and ostrich have large eyes, long neck and long, strong legs designed for running. Emu and ostrich are omnivores. They eat different types of seed, grass, fruit and insects. Despite obvious similarities, emu and ostrich differ in many aspects:

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

Emu is native to Australia. It inhabits sclerophyll forests and wooded savannas that provide plenty of open space. Ostrich originates from Africa. It lives in savannas and semi-deserts.


Ostrich is larger than emu. It can reach 4 to 9 feet in height and 140 to 320 pounds of weight. Emu is 5 to 6 feet tall and weighs 40 to 132 pounds.

Color of the Body and Sexual Dimorphism

Emu and ostrich have different color of the plumage, but they also differ in terms of gender coloration (ability to distinguish males from females). Male ostrich is black colored with white feathers on the wings and tail. Female ostrich is grey-brownish colored. Unlike ostriches, male and female emus look alike. They are brown-colored all the time, except during the mating season, when females can be recognized by blue skin on the face and black feathers on the head.

Number of Toes and Speed

Ostrich has two toes and it can reach speed of 40 miles per hour. Emu has three toes and its maximum speed is 30 miles per hour.


Emus form breeding couples, but only father takes care of the eggs and chicks. Male does not eat and drink during incubation period which lasts 56 days. When chicks finally hatch, male takes care of them until they reach the age of 5 to 6 months. Unlike male emu, male ostrich mates with 6 to 7 females. All females lay their eggs into a single (communal) nest. Male incubates the eggs during the night, and females during the day. Male ostrich teaches its hatchlings how to hunt and protect them against the predators.

Size and Color of the Eggs

Ostrich has the largest eggs in the world. They are white colored and weigh around 3 pounds. Emu also produces large eggs, but they are slightly smaller (around 1 to 1.5 pound each) and greenish-blue colored.


Both emus and ostriches are kept on the farms as a source of meat and leather. Besides that, emu is valuable source of oil. while ostrich serves as a source of feathers that are used for the manufacture of dusters and various decorative items.

Life Span

Emu can survive 10 to 20 years in the wild, while ostrich has a life span of 40 to 50 years.

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