Nature conservation

Threatened species

Emu population in the New South Wales North Coast Bioregion and Port Stephens local government area - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Dromaius novaehollandiae - endangered population
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered Population
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 06 Sep 2002
Profile last updated: 21 Jan 2020


The Emu is a familiar species of the Australian bush. It is a large flightless bird that stands up to 1.9 m tall, with long legs and neck and shaggy grey-brown to dark-brown or grey-black plumage on the upperparts and usually paler underparts. The feathering of the head and neck is sparse around the upper neck with blue skin, which is darker in females, on the face and upper neck. Females are larger than males on average and are usually the larger of the birds in a pair. The downy young are conspicuously striped, with the striping gradually lost up to 3-5 months of age when they begin to acquire feathered juvenile plumage. Immature birds have a dark head and neck. Emus can be seen singly, in pairs or in loose groups, some of which consist of family groups. Males hatch the eggs and care for the chicks. Emus give a range of bubbling and grunting calls and deep drumming or booming sounds.


The Emu formerly occurred throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania though only rarely in dense tropical forests or parts of the arid interior. It is now generally absent from densely settled regions and largely absent from south-eastern coastal and subcoastal regions. The Emu is extinct in Tasmania. The species was formerly widespread in north-eastern NSW, but is now restricted to coastal and near-coastal areas between Evans Head and Red Rock and a small isolated population further west in the Bungawalbin area. The range of the species continues to contract in recent years. It now appears to be absent from Broadwater National Park, there are few recent sightings from its former stronghold in Bundjalung National Park and it is not known whether a natural population continues to persist in the Port Stephens area.

Habitat and ecology

  • On the NSW north coast, Emus occur in a range of predominantly open lowland habitats, including grasslands, heathland, shrubland, open and shrubby woodlands, forest, and swamp and sedgeland communities, as well as the ecotones between these habitats. They also occur in plantations of tea-tree and open farmland, and occasionally in littoral rainforest.
  • Emus are omnivorous, taking a wide range of seeds and fruits, invertebrates (mainly insects) and foliage and other plant material. They take material directly from plants or bend down to take items from the ground, picking up the food and tossing them back in the throat before swallowing.
  • The population of Emus in the NSW North Coast Bioregion and Port Stephens LGA is of significant conservation value as the last known population in northern coastal NSW, and for the role that birds play in dispersing large seeds of native plant species, and over long distances.
  • Most breeding occurs in late autumn and winter, but better data are needed for the north-eastern NSW population. Eggs are laid on a platform of grass, twigs, leaves and bark on the ground, often at the base of some vegetation and with good views from the nest. Incubation and all parental care is by the male.
  • Young are precocial and covered in down at hatching. They can walk within 5 to 24 hours of hatching.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastBarrington Known None
NSW North CoastChaelundi Known None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known Within 5 km of Arrawarra
NSW North CoastDalmorton Predicted None
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Sandstones Known None
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known None
Sydney BasinHunter Known Port Stephens LGA