A picnic in a Victorian national park can often include a curious emu as an uninvited, but friendly and certainly memorable guest.
Birds that can't fly
Like the ostrich, the emu cannot fly, but it can run up to speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour, thanks to its size of around 1.9 metres and three-toed feet that can take 2.5-metre strides
Emus live up to 20 years of age, and females can lay several batches of eggs in one season. The males do most of the incubation, losing significant weight as they do not eat during the eight-week incubation. Males also nurture the newly-hatched chicks, which reach full size after around six months. Emu eggs are a sight in themselves; green and speckled and measuring well over 10 centimetres.
A member of Australia's coat of arms and the face of the 50-cent coin, the emu is generally a peace-loving animal. It is, however, recommended that you keep your distance as the bird can unleash a powerful kick or pecks when threatened. In the wild, predators include dingos, eagles and hawks. Jumping and kicking can deter dingoes, but they're forced to rely on their speed and creative swerving to outwit their avian attackers.
These oversized birds are partial to seeds, fruits, small insects and picnic treats, and can be frequently sighted in lush, fertile Victoria. You have a good chance of interacting with emus in in Wilsons Promontory National Park in Gippsland, Tower Hill State Game Reserve and in Wartook in the Grampians.
Emus are sufficiently friendly to roam freely in the Melbourne Zoo's Australia enclosure, and greet visitors on arrival at Healesville Sanctuary.