Emu eating Emu

To: "'jenny spry'" <>, "'birding-aus'" <>
Subject: Emu eating Emu
From: "Stephen Ambrose" <>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2010 08:40:13 +1000
Hi Jenny,

I've seen this behaviour quite often in wild and captive emu populations in
Western Australia, particularly in semi-arid and arid areas.

Emu droppings usually contain a lot of viable seeds from partially-digested
fruit. So a single emu dropping could potentially contain a localised, but
concentrated food supply for a hungry emu. Emus are also not very good at
retaining body water and their droppings generally have a high moisture
content. Therefore coprophagy is one way an emu can reduce overall body
water loss. It would be interesting to know if the emu you saw was eating
its own droppings or that of another emu. My guess is that it was its own

Stephen Ambrose
Ryde NSW

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of jenny spry
Sent: Sunday, 18 July 2010 6:51 PM
To: birding-aus
Subject: Emu eating Emu

Hi all,

 Now, here is an observation that you should not read just before you start

Heading out to the front gate at Bowra I stopped to watch an Emu that was
"sitting" in the middle of the track. It was down on its "elbows" and
"wrists" and pecking at the ground in front of it. Occasionally it would
shuffle forward a bit, or turn around to peck from a slightly different
angle. Sometimes the bird pecked with the tip of its beak, other times it
turned its head sideways and raked the ground with the edge of the bill.

My first thought was that it was eating pebbles because I knew that birds
often do this, but this was a dirt road and I didn't expect there would be
many pebbles on it. I watched it for about 4 or 5 minutes and took lots of
photos because I had never seen an Emu eating in this pose.

The bird finally got up and walked off so I drove forward to see what had
been interesting it. What I found was a large splodge (technical term -
smile) of loose bird excrement. By the colour and shape it was fresh and I
guess it was Emu, possibly from the same bird I had seen. The Emu had been
pecking out lumpy bits and then turning its head to "shave" the thin runny
portion off the track. Close up it was possible to see the swipe marks made
by the bill and other places where the splodge had been pecked through to
the road. Most of the bird's attention had been in the centre of the splodge
where it was white, rather than brown.

Checking google, as you do these days, I see that Emus eating Emu droppings
has been observed in captive birds so the sighting is not unique. HANZAB
does not mention this behaviour though. What interested me was that this
bird was conscientiously making a meal of this splodge on the track; it was
not partaking in a casual pecking at some droppings but was having a serious
eating session.

The bird was a male and did not show any outward side of illness such as
lost feathers etc.


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