Hello, Neighbor: Emus Take Over Australian Town

Shopkeepers in any downtown area love foot traffic, right? It’s the key to business.

But what if that traffic isn’t full of potential shoppers. What if, instead, it’s a flock of large birds strutting their stuff down the sidewalks?

That’s the scene these days in Longreach, Queensland; an influx of emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is starting to take over the town.

“They were waltzing up and down the street, drinking from the puddles and having a nibble in the garden beds at a council redevelopment site down the road. They were making themselves right at home,” gallery and coffee shop owner Deb Scott told The Australian.

Local experts say the emus are looking for food, but drivers are more concerned that they’re going to end up as road kill—someone forgot to teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 5.07.43 PM“They are taking absolutely no notice of the people, or the cars or dogs,” Longreach Mayor Joe Owens told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “When they are crossing the street, people have to stop for them. They just toddle across as they please.”

And that’s posing a challenge for drivers, considering their long legs allow them to sprint at 31 miles per hour and cover up to nine feet in a single stride. The largest bird native to Australia, they have soft brown feathers, but they never take flight. (Related: “The Great Emu Caper.”)

The emus have been circling the outlying areas of town for a few months, the ABC reports, but this is the first time they’ve ventured into the more densely populated town center.

Under normal conditions, emus stick to the brush, feasting on seeds, grass, and insects. They can last several weeks without a meal, but higher-than-average temperatures and an extended drought have left them on the hunt.

“The [kangaroos] and the emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can,” naturalist Angus Emmott told ABC.

As the drought continues, there’s no telling when the emus will leave the main areas of town, but one thing’s for sure: It’s not every day that you get to share a sidewalk with an emu.

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Danielle Elliot is a multimedia producer and writer who earned her chops reporting and producing for networks, start-ups, and everything in between. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she covered tennis and Olympic figure skating for a few years before earning an M.A. in Science and Health Journalism at Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter @daniellelliot.
  • M. Chase

    Well, I suppose if you have to have an animal take over your town, emus are not the worse possible.

  • Arvind lokhande

    this is pretty weird for us but emus must be very hungry and thirsty, the government must act.
    thanks danielle

  • josh

    Arvind Lokhande, this is pretty weird for us too! some one from india, a country with millions of people who are hungry and thristy saying another countries government must act on hungry and thirsty birds???? Emus have had to adapt to drought, those who survive pass on their drought resistant genes those who dont feed the scavangers.

  • Jopliniac

    Are Emus not dangerous??
    Can you pet them like give them a friendly pat and stuff?

  • naina

    josh,atleast ur government no longer needs to focus on feeding hungry humen,so its better to concentrate on feeding emus..

  • Intrigued

    To the last comment I say REALLY? Obviously these large birds are is desperate need and to say that we can help every human there for let the birds die and build a tolerance is just stupid. I don’t care why nationality you are the human species is smart enough to realize when we have children we can’t feed. So I say let’s set up shelters for out homeless and neglected children and then we can euthanize those who no one adopts after a year? That’s a good way to control some of our starving. That way the next time starving wildlife comes into our towns because of how we have destroyed their own we at least can say hey sorry birds suck it up were already doing damage control with out own species so you SOL.

  • ningappa

    josh . I suppose u hv not visited India any recently . n moreover its our(Indians) inborn culture to feed the hungry n help the people in need . . .if u Don want to feed them its k but think before commenting on a country . .

  • Andrew W

    I wish our abc news cast was just a collage of video and jazz on more events.

    Citys and meccas all over the world, more and more rural places all doing the same thing as these Emu.
    Because of deforestation, dew to natural and man made draughts, landslides, forest fires, floods etc.

    Im just saying

    A montage of animals, all with this film style of Jazz musical film slides to raccoons, black bears, coyotes, elk, caribou etc. WOULD BE EPIC haha

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