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Emu Lifespans

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Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) are substantial birds that come exclusively from Australia. These flightless creatures look a whole lot like ostriches -- the only birds on the planet that surpass them in height. Although emus don't fly, they are notably speedy runners.

Basic Information

Emus are classified as "ratites" -- avians that do not have flying abilities, a group that also includes kiwis, rheas and ostriches. These solitary, brownish-gray birds usually grow to heights of around 69 inches, although some are taller. They generally weigh somewhere between 79 and 88 pounds -- essentially, they carry too much weight for flight. Emus' plumage is exceptionally smooth, and they have markedly long necks and limbs. Thanks to their swift running skills and remarkable size, emus don't have many predators. However, dingoes do occasionally prey on them, as do eagles. Emus are not only talented at running, they also are adept swimmers.

Shorter Wild Lifespan

Emus that reside in their natural habitats -- usually grasslands or savannas -- have relatively brief lifespans. Free-roaming emus typically survive around seven years, according to Animal Diversity Web for the University of Michigan. However, many die as young as 5, while others may survive a full decade.

Longer Captive Lifespan

As with many animals, emus tend to live longer lives in captive settings, such as zoos. Captive emus will often see their 16th birthday, and some might make it to a venerable 20 years.

Diet and Survival

Lack of sustenance -- both food and drinking water -- is one of the biggest reasons behind the often significantly briefer lifespans of emus in the wild. In captivity, they experience predictable and reliable eating and drinking routines, and therefore are able to stay much healthier and sturdier. These omnivores consume varied diets that include bugs, seeds, fruit, flowers, algae, duckweed, tiny animals and grass. They are not picky and generally will try the majority of foods they encounter. For they most part, emus prefer eating plants. It isn't rare for emus to feed on the stool matter of other animals. They travel frequently within their habitats in the search of water and food supplies, especially as the seasons shift. In times of ample resources, however, emus usually stay put.

Population Status

Emus are categorized as a "least concern" species, population-wise, as of the 2012 determination by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Although they live in the wild only in Australia, their numbers are healthy and consistent there, and they have no pressing risk of endangerment.