Difference Between Ostrich and Emu

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 13, 2023


Difference Between Ostrich and Emu

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Ostrich and emu are two birds in the family ratite whom people often confuse with each other. Both are flightless birds and look similar in appearance which often leads people to mistake one for the other. They share genetic traits as they belong to the same family. They also have the added title of being the world's largest flightless birds.

It is essential to understand the main differences between Ostrich and emu to distinguish one from the other. We will look at the characteristics of Ostrich and emu along with the differences between them in this article.

Ostrich vs. Emu

As we have mentioned above, Ostrich and emu have many similarities in their appearance. Both birds are flightless.  Their physical appearance involves particularly large eyes while their legs and neck are long and slender. The brain-to-body ratio is rather small in birds belonging to the family ratite. Therefore, they have smaller-sized brains and aren't very intelligent. Though both birds have similarities in their appearance, they differ in their size, habitat and colour including their eggs.

Key differences between ostrich and emu in tabular form

Parameters of comparisonOstrichEmu
LIfespanThe ostrich lives longer than the emu on average and has a lifespan of 30-50 years.Emus tend to have a lifespan of 10-20 years.
HabitatOstrich is commonly found in AfricaEmus are commonly found in Australia
WingsWith a maximum wingspan of over 6 feet, the ostrich is the proud owner of large wings.Emu has smaller, more discreet wings
SizeThe ostrich has a height of 9 feet and weighs around 320 poundsEmu has a height of up to 7 feet and also weighs around 320 pounds
EggsOstrich eggs are cream in colour and weigh around 3 poundsEggs laid by the emu are dark green and weigh 1- 1.4 pounds.
SpeedThe ostrich can run at a speed of  45 miles per hourThe emu is slower than the ostrich and it can run at a speed of 30 miles per hour.
ColourThe back of the ostrich is dark brown with white patches. There is also the presence of white or pink on the face and neckThe complexion of an emu ranges from dark brown to black.
DietOstriches are omnivoresEmus are mostly herbivores.

What is an Ostrich?

Ostriches are large flightless birds which lay the largest eggs out of any other living animal. They can run at a speed of 70 kilometres per hour and thus have the added title of being the fastest birds on land. Ostriches have eyes which have a diameter of 2 inches ( 5 centimetres). Their eyes are the largest of any other land vertebrae. They have slender legs and long neck which protrudes from their round body. The complexion of male ostriches differs from that of female ostriches. Male ostriches are black-and-white in colour while females are light brown. The ostrich is also the only bird that has two toes on each foot. They are also the biggest bird in the world with a height of 9 feet and a weight of around 320 pounds.

Ostriches are omnivores. Though they mostly eat roots, leaves and seeds of plants, they also like to eat lizards, snakes, rodents and tiny insects like locusts. They eat sand and pebbles to help in the digestive process and help grind the food inside their gizzard. A fun fact about ostriches is that they do not have to drink water. They receive the water necessary for their bodily functions through the plants they eat. This does not mean that ostriches will not drink water if they see some.

Ostriches are commonly found in the dry, hot savannas and woodlands of Africa. Their presence has now been limited to sub-Saharan Africa mainly because they have been hunted widely in the past decades. It is said that they once used to roam all over Asia, Africa and the Arabian peninsula.

Mating Habits of Ostriches  

A flock of ostriches can consist of 10 ostriches to 100 ostriches. In every flock, there will be a dominant male ostrich and a dominant female ostrich along with several other females. During the mating season, lone male ostriches may come and go. A male ostrich is called a cock or a rooster, while a female ostrich is called a hen.

The rooster bows and flaps their wings outward displaying its plumage to get the female's attention. When the male ostrich's beak and shins turn bright red, it is an indicator that it is ready to mate. In females, their feathers will turn a silvery colour when they are ready to mate.

Types of Ostriches

There are only two living species of ostrich present on the earth today. They are the common ostrich and the Somali ostrich. The common ostrich was once native to the Arabian Peninsula but is now native to large areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Somali ostrich is native to the Horn of Africa.

The scientific classification of the ostrich is as follows:

Kingdom- Animalia 

Phylum - Chordata 

Class- Aves

Order- Struthioniformes

Family - Struthionidae 

Genus-  Struthio

The scientific name of the ostrich is Struthio camelus.

Ostrich farming

Ostrich farming is gaining popularity today due to its high profitability. Ostrich farms are even referred to as “ the farms of the future” due to the large variety of possible products and potential. Ostriches are mainly raised for their meat, feathers and skin.

The meat which ostriches produce is red meat and tastes similar to beef and veal. Ostrich meat is also a much healthier option as it has less fat and cholesterol when compared to other types of meat. The demand for ostrich meat is rising internationally as people are trying to eat meat which is less fatty and more healthy.

Ostrich feathers can be used for cleaning machinery and other equipment. They are also used in the fashion industry for decorative purposes.

Ostrich skin is also widely in demand as ostrich leather is thick, durable and extremely soft. It can also be manufactured into a variety of products like shoes, bags, purses, etc.

In recent times, ostriches have also been explored for medicinal purposes. For example, a substance produced by Ostrich's brain is being studied for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Ostriches also have really good vision and can see clearly for over 12 km. This has led to recent research on the possibility to use ostrich eyes in cornea implants.

 We have discussed all the characteristics, qualities and uses of ostriches. Now let us look into the characteristics of the emu.

What is an emu?

The emu is considered to be the second-largest living bird. The emu is a member of the family Dromaiidae and is the largest bird found in Australia. The emu is also the only extant member of the genus Dromaius. Its physical description involves long legs and neck along with tiny wings, reduced to less than 8 inches. Male emus weigh around 110 to 121 pounds while female emus weigh about 11 pounds only.

Some of the prominent features of emus are their long necks and legs along with their soft feathers. Emus also have three toes which face forward on each of their feet. These toes help the emu grip the ground and run vastly. It also helps protect them from predators as they help them do a powerful kick. Both male and female emus share the features of a dark grey head and neck. They also share a brown complexion.  Dromaius novaehollandiae is the emu's scientific name.

Mating Habits

In December and January, emus tend to form pairs for breeding. They tend to mate in the months of May and June. An indicator of the mating season is that there is an increase in the luteinizing hormone and testosterone levels of male emus. They also lose their appetite during this period. Male emus are responsible for constructing a rough nest on the ground using grass, sticks and leaves. Emus mate every day or two during the mating season. The female emu lays 11 to 20 eggs every second or third day of mating on average. The eggs weigh around 700 to 900 grams, which is the equivalent of 10-12 chicken eggs. They are also 134×89 millimetres in volume.

Once the laying period is complete, the male emu begins to incubate the eggs focusing his sole attention on the process. The male emu does not drink, eat or defecate during this period leading to a loss of one-third of its weight. The female emu then mates with other male emus and lays eggs in multiple clutches.

Uses of emus

As in the case of ostrich, emu farming is also a growing industry due to its many advantages. Meat from emu is low in fat, and cholesterol and has a gamey flavour. As a result, there is a growing demand for emu meat in the market. Emu meat also has higher levels of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, protein and iron in it.

Oil produced from emus fat stores is also popular as it has several beneficial acids like Omega 9, Omega 6 and Omega 3 in it. As a result, it is also used as a natural skin moisturiser.

The emu's leather also has a unique pattern caused by the emu's feather follicles. Its leather is widely used in handbags, shoes, wallets and boots. The emu's feathers are also used for decorative purposes and in art and craft like dream catchers and jewellery.

Differences between Ostrich and Emu in Points

Let us now try to summarise the main differences between the ostrich and the emu based on our understanding of their nature and characteristics.

  • The ostrich is the largest living bird while the emu is smaller in size and is the second largest bird in the world.
  • There are two species of ostrich, namely the common Ostrich and the Somali Ostrich whereas there are only one species of emu present in the world.
  • Ostriches have large wings with white tips that contrast against their body, while emus have smaller wings which have a consistent complexion.
  • Ostriches belong to the genus Struthio while emu belongs to the genus Dromaius.
  • Ostriches are found in the hot Savannas of Africa while emu is commonly found in Australia.
  • In the case of ostriches, a group will have a dominant male and several other female hens which take care of the incubation process after mating. In contrast, it is the male emu that takes care of the incubation process while the female emu mates with other males.
  • Ostriches are the fastest birds on land and can run up to 45 miles an hour. An emu can only run up to 30 miles per hour
  • The scientific name of the ostrich is Struthio camelus while the scientific name of the emu is Dromaius novaehollandiae.
  • In Ostriches, the males have black and white feathers, while the females have brown feathers. In emus, both males and females have deep brown feathers which makes it difficult to distinguish between the sexes.


Ostrich and emu are flightless birds having the titles of being the world's largest and second-largest birds respectively. At first glance, they may look the same. This is due to the similarity in their physical appearance. Both ostrich and emu have long legs and necks along with wings. Both belong to the group of birds termed ratite and this could be the reason behind their similar appearance. But a closer look into the features and characteristics of the Ostrich and the emu will lead you to understand that both are not the same. It will point to the differences between the Ostrich and the Emu including their weight, size, mating preferences and even the colour and size of their eggs.

While emus have wings that are smaller in size, ostriches have large wings. The eggs laid by the ostrich are cream in colour while the emu lays dark green eggs. Ostriches can run faster than emus whereas emus have three toes, unlike the ostrich which has only two. Many other differences exist between the two and we looked at them in detail in this article. After carefully analysing every minute detail, we can conclude that the ostrich is not the same as the emu.


  • https://a-z-animals.com/blog/emu-vs-ostrich-9-key-differences-between-these-giant-birds/
  • https://www.britannica.com/animal/ostrich
  • https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostrich
  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/facts/common-emu
  • https://animalia.bio/emu
  • https://a-z-animals.com/animals/ostrich/


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"Difference Between Ostrich and Emu." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 20 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-ostrich-and-emu-1301>.

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