Emu Running How Fast Can an Emu Run?

DocumentsEmu running in the Australian outback

Photo: Emu running in the Australian Outback

The emu is the fastest land bird in Australia, and the second-fastest running bird in the world, (after the ostrich). The emu can run at speeds up to 50 km/h (30mp/h) and travel long distances at this speed without tiring. It is not certain why an emu runs so fast, as it don't have any serious predators.

The anatomy of an emu’s legs differs from most other birds. It has two long scaly legs with three forward-facing toes. These toes have large pointed toenails. Small flattened pads on the underside of its toes cushion its stride and provide traction.

Since the emu is a ground bird and doesn't need to perch and grasp onto branches like other birds, it has fewer bones and muscles in its legs. Also, the emu is the only bird with calf muscles (the muscle on the back of the lower leg) which are beneficial for running fast. The emu has a variable stride as long as 3 meters.

Besides running at full speed, the emu also zig-zags when fleeing from predators, making it very difficult for its attacker to follow it. When zig-zagging, the emu manipulates its tiny vestigial wings, each about the size of a human hand (20cm), to control its balance and direction. For example, when changing direction rapidly, the emu points one wing up and the other down, almost like a child "playing airplane".

The emu can also jump straight up to an astounding height of nearly 2 meters - it can jump as high as it is tall.

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