Feathers are unusual in that they have two shafts growing from each feather base. The sexes are similar in appearance, and color varies from almost black to light brown but usually is brown-gray with feathers tipped in black. Downy black feathers cover crown of head and neck. Bright blue skin covers the sides of the head and neck with fine sparse feathers giving it a naked appearance. Color can brighten when a bird is disturbed and excited. Their bill is broad and flat, and they have long powerful legs with 3 forward facing nailed toes on each foot and no back toe. They run at speeds up to 30mph for short distances. Emus cannot fly away, so when they are cornered, they can deliver tremendous blows with strong feet, possibly breaking a thigh and injuring muscles of the victim. They swim well and have good endurance. The emu’s voice is said to distinguish sexes. The male emits guttural cries and females have a resonant booming. Their calls consist of booming, drumming and grunting. Booming is created in an inflatable neck sac and can be heard up to 1.2 miles away. The emu is the national bird of Australia. It is the second largest living bird, and the tallest bird of Australia.
The Emu competes with farmers and ranchers for grassland habitat. Government protection has slowed the slaughter responsible for the extinction of all but one species.