Monday, June 21, 2010

Big Bird on the Loose

 As most of you know, I’m all about attracting wildlife, especially birds, to my yard. It’s always exciting to catch sight of a bird at the feeder that I haven’t seen before. But the bird I saw last week wasn’t one I expected, or better yet, didn’t even think was possible.
I was cutting grass on my riding mower one afternoon last week when something caught my attention. I looked over to my left and what was there didn’t seem real - oh, but it was! It was Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). The closest I had ever been to one of these Australian birds was at the VA Zoo, which is at least 30 plus miles away.
Emus are large flightless birds that reach up to 6-1/2 feet tall. They are native to Australia and are one of the largest birds in the world, second only to the ostrich. Emus forage on a variety of plants, seeds and insects and are capable of traveling long distances in search of food (not good news for the owner still looking for this big bird). In recent years Emu farms, both abroad and here in the U.S. have become very popular. They are farmed primarily for their meat, and sometimes for leather and oil. They are also popular animals to see in petting zoos and hobby farms.
For just a split second, the Emu was coming straight towards me at a hasty trot before veering off to one side. I think the running mower probably startled it a little. I turned the mower off and just stared at it in disbelief for a moment. I knew this wasn’t normal, but I wasn’t aware of an emu farm nearby and wasn’t sure who to call. I continued to watch as the Emu slowed to a casual walk and proceeded across my front yard. At that moment I realized I should document this or possibly be considered crazy for telling everyone what I just witnessed, especially since my wife and daughter were not home at the moment of encounter. As a matter of fact, none of my neighbors where outside to witness this. I was definitely all alone on this one. At that moment I jumped off the mower and went inside to grab my camera. I came back out and was able to snap off a few photos before the emu disappeared down the street.
My feeling went from disbelief to comical later on when viewing the photos with my family. I’ve attracted many birds to my yard using bird feeders and nest boxes, but without saying, this was definitely the oddest bird I have ever had in my yard.
A few days later my mother-in-law emailed me an article from the local paper that helped to put the puzzle pieces together. It seems as if several emus escaped from an animal farm in a neighboring city and have been showing up in odd places, one of them being a local golf course. Here’s a link to the article:
Just this past weekend another article surfaced in the same news paper. Seems as if one is still on the loose:
And just this evening the story made it on our local TV news - hey, this is big news for a small city like Suffolk.

UPDATE: The last emu was captured on Tuesday (6/22) and moved to the VA Zoo. Here's a link to the local article:

Be sure to check out other birds this week over at Birdfreak's Bird Photographer Weekly #96


Les said...

Well that is certainly one for your life list.

Arija said...

That was about as usual for you as an elephant walking up my driveway would be for me.
The emus here like sultanas and grapes so maybe if you add those to your feeders, it will become a regular visitor and raise some chicks in your compost heap.

Connie said...

Nice yard bird!

Nellie from Beyond My Garden said...

So lucky to be able to get to your camera in time.

Thierry Lach said...

Heckuva yard bird.

dugfresh said...

amazing! so what kind of nest box do you have to build for that guy?!? :)
glad you were able to snap out of the stupor and grab your camera. that is so cool!

FAB said...

Extraordinary addition to your yard list Alan.

mick said...

That was a most interesting encounter with the emu and certainly unexpected. Great that you got some photos to document it.

Unknown said...

What a great story! And how wonderful to have photos to prove it!

Anonymous said...

That's incredible - I can't imagine I'd believe my own eyes if I saw one in my yard. Wowza! Definitely the best yard list bird I've heard in a while.

Larry said...

We have had Emu and Ostrich farms nearby in northern California when the craze hit several years ago. The problem was, some folks spent thousands of dollars on breading pairs of birds but the meat marketing part of the equation never came to pass.

When the cost of feeding these large birds surpassed the value of the bird, some people simply let their birds loose. I remember seeing Ostriches running though the cow pastures occasionally.

I never had one visit my yard though! That is really a great bird for the yard list Alan!

Both the Ostrich and Emu are truly exceptional and very interesting birds, especially when seen close up. Right Alan?

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