The Emu

close-up-of-adult-emu_0No collection of Australian bird photgraphs would be complete without the Emu.  The Emu, Australia’s largest bird,  is included in the Australian Coat of Arms, because along with the Kangaroo, it cannot walk backwards.  They serve to remind us that as a nation we will always move forwards. 

The Emu is a large, slightly prehistoric-looking bird.  It is a thrill to come across one or more  in the wild, either as they stroll along or sprint off into the scrub to escape you.  They make a deep, resonant, drumming or booming sound that penetrates the bush.  The first time we heard their sound was in Gundabooka National Park in outback NSW.   It certainly is unlike any other bird sound we have encountered

Perhaps humans can learn from the Emu – the father Emu incubates the eggs for 7-8 weeks then raises the chicks for 6-8 months after hatching.

The Aboriginals and the Emu

The Emu was a source of food for Aboriginal people, and as with all native fauna, it was intricately woven into their creation stories.

One such story concerns the region now known as Waychinicup National Park.  This small national park is situated on the coast north of Albany, in WA’s wild south-west region.  There are few facilities in the park, just ‘drop’ toilets, and only a few campsites, which are so small we were unable to set up our camper trailer.  Nonethless, this park contains some glorious coutnry, the main feature of which is the picturesque Waychinicup inlet.  The name ‘Waychinicup’  comes from the local Aboriginal language, and means ‘the place that puts Emus into being’.  By all accounts there are now no Emus in the area, but the association of Waychinicup with the Emu is obvious, for the rugged hillsides are strewn with enormous granite boulders which look, for all the world, like giant Emu eggs.

As we have travelled Australia we have visited many Aboriginal art sites.  The rock art, the earliest of which has been dated to tens of thousands of years old, represents sources of food in the local area, as well as symbols of a mythological and sacred nature.  The Emu has been shown in many of these places, ranging from Mutawintji and Gundabooka National Parks in outback NSW, to the Wanna Munna artsite in the central Pilbara of WA, then further west to the Burrup Peninsula on the WA coast. Some artwork shows the whole Emu, while other images of the tracks left by the Emu were displayed as a message to hunters that Emus were to be found in the area.

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