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DR. JERRY WILSON


QUESTION:What is the difference between an ostrich and an emu? (Asked by a column reader.)

REPLY: Well, one thing they have in common is that they are both big birds. However, the ostrich is a bit bigger, being the largest and strongest bird.

The ostrich is found only in Africa (unless transplanted), and up to 8 feet tall, with the neck accounting for about one-half the height. An ostrich’s diet is mainly plants, and a grown ostrich can weigh more than 300 pounds; even so, it can run at speeds of up to 40 mph, thanks to its long legs. As you might imagine, an ostrich egg is quite large (about 3 pounds). In the hatching process, the male sits on the egg during the night, and the female takes the day shift.

In the late 1800s, ostrich farming became popular, with plumage being the main crop. Ostrich feathers were a big thing in ladies’ hats in those days. With a change in fashion, ostrich hide was used to make quality leather. Nowadays, as you have probably read, they are being raised for food. Ostrich meat is low in fat, but an ostrich burger can be expensive, with meat on the order of $12 a pound.

The ostrich has a South American cousin called the rhea. These ostrich-like birds are smaller, only about 4 feet tall, and have three toes instead of two like the ostrich.

The emu is a large, flightless bird native to Australia. Next to the ostrich, it is the largest of all birds. A grown emu can stand 6 feet tall, weigh about 130 pounds and run 30 mph. They eat mainly roots, fruits and plants. Emus lack the graceful plumage of the ostrich; their feathers are hair-like and resemble shaggy fur.

It is interesting to note that emu egg-sitting takes a couple of months and is done solely by the male, who also takes care of the chicks. I’ve heard of being hen-pecked, but I guess this is a case of being emu-pecked.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript):“A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.” -- Lana Turner

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.