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The Family of Ratite

to Which Peewee and the Emu Belong




The Ostrich: Native to South Africa, the Ostrich is the largest flightless bird. The male is black in color and stands up to 9 feet tall. The female is slightly smaller and has muted colors. Ostrich have large flowing feathered wings and can weigh over 300 pounds.

The Ostrich is native to the African plains. In the wild it is a pack animal and travels in large herds. During mating season, families of Ostrich with one male and several females separate from the group to lay their eggs. A female can lay over 80 large white-shelled eggs in the summer months. During this period the male is very protective of the eggs and has been known to injure and kill people attempting to gather eggs.

The Ostrich has two large toes and they attack to defend themselves.




The National Bird of Australia

The Emu: Native to Australia and Tasmania. You can tell an Emu egg by it's large size and greenish black color. It's about the size of a small grapefruit and in shape, it makes you think of a football with rounded ends. The Emu egg, by the way, comes in several shades of greenish black. It can be fairly light to almost black. I've seen one that was actually more blue than green.

The Emu is a smaller cousin of the ostrich and you can find them in Australia. It stands about six feet tall and weighs around 150 pounds. It's being grown for meat and oil in this country. Emu typically lay between 20 and 40 eggs.

The Emu has a really neat defense mechanism against its predators. An Emu can only run at about 35 miles per hour, while some of its predators -- like cats-- can run at close to double that speed in short bursts. Nevertheless, the Emu still survive. A cat may be chasing an Emu and gaining on it. The Emu can't escape by flying, since no bird weighing over 35 pounds can fly. Instead, it races along with it's giant 9 foot long strides. As the cat is bounding full speed after it and just about to catch it, the Emu, still running along at top speed, will raise one of its little stubby wings towards the sky and point the other towards the earth. This makes the Emu swivel around almost 180 degrees, still at top speed, and it takes off in a different direction. The cat can't turn this quickly and its momentum will keep it going for 30 or so yards, by which time the Emu is far away. The Emu can exhaust its predator before the predator can catch up with it.

Also Emu rapidly gather together for protection. The six sharp toenails from 10 adult Emu are a match for most any predator.

Emu are great natural insecticides. They eat insects and caterpillars, and one adult Emu, when harvested, was found to have more than 3000 harmful caterpillars in its stomach.

By the way, I told you about how Emu escape their predators by putting one wing up and the other down and swiveling around, but there's something else really interesting about them. They're playful and they like people. We know a lot about how they communicate with each other and one of their signals for, "I want to play tag," is to thrust their breasts in a kind of scooping motion towards the ground. When Bruce Asbury of KXJB television visited our Ranch, he was led to one of their football-field size pens and then run away from the Emu. They chased after him, and then when he turned around, they ran away from him. He continued this game of tag for about five minutes until he was exhausted. He thought at the end of all this chasing that they'd be afraid of him, but instead, they came up to him so that he'd scratch her neck for her.

Although there were 5 known species of Emu, only one remains. Emu are the world's second-largest living bird.

Although flightless, this 6-foot-tall bird is a powerful swimmer and runner, clocking speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour. Despite having been persecuted as a farmland pest, the last remaining specie of Emu has remained a relatively common plains and desert-dwelling bird.

The female lays the eggs and the male incubates them for 49-54 days, the longest incubation period for an egg. The male then cares for the chicks until they reach the age of 18 months.



Cassowary Picture

The Cassowary: The Cassowary is the third largest bird in the world.

The Cassowary is a flightless bird. It can grow to almost 6 feet in height and can weigh up to 60kgs (130lbs).

The Cassowary can be found within the tropical rainforests of Northern Queensland, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It searches the forest floor for fruit & berries, which fall from the rainforest canopy. Cassowaries also eat fungi, snails, and even small animals.

The female Cassowary lays a clutch of four to ten eggs. The male Cassowary incubates the eggs.

They are shy solitary animals. The destruction of their habitat is the greatest threat, however feral dogs have also invaded the rainforest.

The Cassowary has strong powerful legs with dagger-like claws on its toes. It defends itself by kicking. Its kick is powerful enough to rip open a person's stomach or even kill the person. Cassowary are considered dangerous to humans with many fatal attacks occurring each year in New Guinea.



Rhea Picture

The Rhea: Rheas are native to South America. The Rhea is the fourth largest flightless bird. Rheas have large full-feathered wings. A Rhea Americana is a 4 to 5 foot flightless bird from Argentina, and is called "The South American Ostrich." The species is a direct descendant from the age of dinosaurs. Full grown they average 60 to 80 pounds. In the wild they travel in sub groups within larger herds, 5 to 15 females traveling together, will find a dominant male, he will mate them for only a couple of weeks whilst they lay him a mound of eggs. Once he judges there to be enough eggs in nest, he quits mating and sits on them, meanwhile the female group wanders off and finds another male. The first male incubates the eggs, when they hatch they follow him until adolescence. The native South Americans have long known the therapeutic value of the Rhea for internal or external remedies. Now there are more birds being farmed in North America.

Rhea (bird) is the common name for two South American birds similar to the ostrich. They are smaller than African ostriches and have three toes instead of two. The head and neck are completely feathered. Long, pale brown or gray feathers droop over the shortened tail. Rheas have long legs and run very rapidly. The greater rhea (Rhea Americana) inhabits grassy plains, and the lesser rhea (Pterocnemia pennata) lives in the southern Andes mountains.

They defend themselves in a different way from the Emu, though. A rhea has a spur at its heel that looks like a smaller version of the horn on a cow. The rhea can kick with a force of 800 pounds per square inch, and an adult rhea has little to fear from any predator except man. Rheas can be fiercer, less playful, and can cause you real harm if you annoy them enough. Rhea Data courtesy of The male incubates the eggs for 35 to 40 days before the chicks hatch.




The Kiwi: Kiwi are the smallest of the ratites. They are native to New Zealand and Indonesia. They are not currently raised commercially.


Just click on the story title you want to read.

Peewee Finds A Home

Peewee's Fall Story

Peewee's October Story

Peewee's Quiz

Peewee's Puppy Visits Minneapolis

Peewee is part of the Family of Ratites

Pictures of Peewee's Emu Family

Peewee's Crossword Puzzle-Young Kids

Peewee's Crossword Puzzle-Older Kids

Help Peewee Get Home

Peewee's Word Puzzles for Kids

Independence Day At The Ranch

Returning Barney to the Wild

Interlinked Pages
My Human Friends
EmuMagic Emu Oil Products
Heart of Minnesota Emu Ranch
Heart of Minnesota Emu Ranch Tours





Photographs courtesy of Pictures by George and Corbis at