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Emus vs Ostriches

 Discover which of these leggy land-birds is the tallest, and which is the fastest





Distribution: Australia

Diet: Plants and insects

Height: Up to 1.9m

Weight: 18-60kg

Speed: Up to 31mph

Defence: Strong claws, eyesight, camouflage and speed

Colour: Brown-grey, blue neck.

Risk: Least concern.



Distribution: Savannahs and Sahel of Africa

 Diet: Plants and insects

 Height: 1.7-2.8m

 Weight: 63-145kg

 Speed: Up to 43mph

 Defence: Speed, eyesight and hearing

 Colour: Black with white tail, brown & white

 Risk: Least concern.



Ostriches prefer open land and rarely settle above altitudes of 100m, and can be found in the savannahs and Sahel of Africa. While Emus are native to Australian deserts, and have become widespread across the country, although rarely reach the east coast.



Both favour grass, fruit and flowers, and insects and can also go for prolonged periods without water. Both emus and ostriches ingest pebbles, glass and other hard items to help grind the food in their digestive system.



They’re the most disproportioned of all birds, but somehow it works out for these pom-poms on stilts. The ostrich is the largest living bird, and the fastest two-legged runner, with the emu coming in a close second in both categories. Their strides can reach almost three metres, and their little heads perched on swaying necks hold some of the biggest eyes of all vertebrates – at two inches in diameter. The male ostrich has black feathers, with a white tail and wing tips. The female is brown, similar to both sexes of the emu which are brown grey in colour. The emu has a distinctive blue skin to its neck, whilst ostriches skin is a lighter pink-grey in females or blue-grey in males.



Contrary to belief, these birds don’t ‘bury their heads in the sand’, and are well equipped to defend themselves. Both have excellent eyesight and hearing, allowing them to detect predators from a distance. They have strong legs and claws that kick forward when threatened. Ostriches and emus are excellent runners, reaching speeds of 43 and 31mph respectively. The ostrich wins the race thanks to its longer legs and possessing only two toes. The emu is also well camouflaged; their plumage will match their surroundings to avoid being detected



The ostrich and emu are both classified as of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN and are both farmed for their meat and fur, so humans rarely exploit wild populations.