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A picnic in a Victorian national park can often include a curious emu as an uninvited guest, with Australia's largest bird partial to a sandwich and a gossip. It's an esteemed guest, as a member of Australia's coat of arms and face of the 50-cent coin.

Birds that can't fly

Like the ostrich, the emu cannot fly, but it sure can run. With a size of up to 1.9 metres and three-toed feet that can take 2.5 metre strides, it can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour.

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. Dear old dads 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.

Encountering emus

Emus are generally peace-loving animals, though it's 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.

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