Reaching For The Skies: Australia’S Tallest Bird Species

From parrots to penguins, Australia is home to a diverse array of bird life. The island continent has species of all shapes and sizes, but which one stands tallest? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: the emu is Australia’s tallest bird, sometimes growing over 6 feet tall.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll survey Australia’s avifauna to determine which species merits the title of tallest bird. We’ll examine height statistics, look at adaptations for increased height, and explore how height gives advantages.

By the end, you’ll know all about the impressively tall emu and its significance as Australia’s loftiest bird.

Bird Height Basics

Bird height is an important characteristic that varies across different species. Understanding how bird height is measured, the factors influencing it, and the advantages of size can provide valuable insights into the world of avian biology.

How Bird Height is Measured

When it comes to measuring bird height, ornithologists typically rely on two main methods. The first method involves using a ruler or calipers to measure the length of the bird from the tip of its beak to the end of its tail.

This measurement is known as the “total length” and provides a general idea of the bird’s size.

The second method involves measuring the bird’s “tarsus length,” which is the distance between the base of the bird’s foot and its ankle joint. This measurement is often more precise and allows researchers to compare the heights of different bird species more accurately.

Factors Influencing Height

A variety of factors influence the height of bird species. One crucial factor is genetics. Different bird species have evolved to have different body sizes, which can affect their overall height. For example, Australia’s tallest bird species, the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), can reach heights of up to 1.9 meters (6.2 feet).

Environmental factors also play a role in determining bird height. For instance, birds living in dense forests may have shorter heights compared to those living in open grasslands. This is because taller birds may have difficulty maneuvering through dense vegetation, while shorter birds can navigate more easily.

Additionally, food availability and competition for resources can also influence bird height. In some cases, birds may grow taller to access food sources that are out of reach for smaller species, giving them a competitive advantage in their environment.

Advantages of Size

Being taller can provide several advantages for bird species. One advantage is increased visibility. Taller birds can spot predators or potential mates from a greater distance, enhancing their survival and reproductive success.

Taller birds may also have better access to food resources. They can reach higher branches or larger prey that smaller birds cannot access, expanding their dietary options and increasing their chances of survival.

Moreover, taller birds often have longer legs, allowing them to cover more ground with each stride. This can be particularly advantageous when it comes to foraging or escaping predators.

While height provides numerous benefits, it is important to note that each bird species has evolved to fit its specific environment and lifestyle. Thus, the height of a bird is just one aspect of its overall adaptation to its ecological niche.

For more information on bird height and other fascinating avian topics, visit or

Australia’s Tallest Bird Contenders


When it comes to height, ostriches are the clear winners among Australia’s bird population. Although not native to Australia, these magnificent creatures are well-known for their towering height. In fact, ostriches are the tallest birds in the world, with males standing at an impressive average height of 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters).

With their long legs and necks, these flightless birds are truly a sight to behold.


Native to Australia’s tropical rainforests, cassowaries are another contender for the title of Australia’s tallest bird species. These large flightless birds can reach heights of up to 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.8 meters) tall.

Known for their vibrant blue and red necks, cassowaries are not only tall but also possess a unique appearance. They are also known for their powerful kicks, which can be quite formidable if provoked.


Bustards are another bird species found in Australia that can reach impressive heights. These ground-dwelling birds are known for their sturdy build and long legs, allowing them to stand tall. While not as tall as ostriches or cassowaries, bustards can still reach heights of up to 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) tall.

Found in various habitats across Australia, bustards are skilled hunters and are known for their ability to camouflage themselves in their surroundings.

For more information and detailed comparisons of bird species in Australia, you can visit websites such as:

Australia is home to a diverse range of bird species, each with its own unique characteristics and adaptations. The tallest bird contenders in Australia, including ostriches, cassowaries, and bustards, showcase the remarkable diversity and beauty of the country’s avian population.

Whether it’s the immense height of the ostrich, the vibrant colors of the cassowary, or the stealthy nature of the bustard, these birds capture the imagination and inspire awe in those lucky enough to witness them in their natural habitats.

The Towering Emu

Australia is home to some of the most unique and fascinating wildlife in the world, and its avian residents are no exception. Among the many bird species found in the country, the emu stands out as one of the tallest. With its long legs and neck, this magnificent bird truly reaches for the skies.

Average Height

The emu is the second-largest bird in the world, surpassed only by the ostrich. On average, adult emus stand at an impressive height of around 5 to 6.2 feet (1.5 to 1.9 meters). This towering height is attributed to their long legs, which allow them to navigate through Australia’s diverse landscapes with ease.

Their slender bodies and necks further contribute to their overall impressive stature.

Tallest Recorded

While the average height of emus is already remarkable, some individuals have been recorded to reach even greater heights. The tallest recorded emu stood at a staggering 6.8 feet (2.1 meters) tall. This exceptional height is a testament to the incredible adaptability and genetic diversity within the emu population.

Leg and Neck Length

The emu’s remarkable height is primarily due to its extraordinarily long legs and neck. Their legs can reach lengths of up to 3.3 feet (1 meter), allowing them to take large strides and cover great distances efficiently.

This feature is particularly advantageous for the emu, as it enables them to escape predators and traverse their vast habitats.

Furthermore, the emu’s neck is remarkably long, measuring up to 1.3 feet (40 centimeters) in length. This elongated neck not only contributes to its overall height but also aids in foraging for food and maintaining a vigilant lookout for potential threats.

It is important to note that while the emu’s height is impressive, it is not the only characteristic that makes this bird unique. Emus are also known for their flightlessness, large size, and distinctive feather patterns.

Their ability to adapt to different environments and survive in arid regions is a testament to their resilience and remarkable evolutionary history.

To learn more about the emu and other fascinating bird species in Australia, you can visit the official website of the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment:

Significance of the Emu’s Height

The Emu, Australia’s tallest bird species, boasts an impressive height that serves several significant purposes in its survival and behavior. From mate display to speed and agility, and even access to food, the Emu’s height plays a crucial role in its day-to-day life.

Mate Display

The Emu’s height is a key factor in its mate display rituals. During the breeding season, male Emus compete for the attention of females by showcasing their impressive height. They stand tall, fluffing up their feathers, and emit deep, resonating calls to attract potential mates.

The taller the Emu, the more likely it is to be noticed by females, increasing its chances of successful reproduction.

Speed and Agility

Contrary to their seemingly cumbersome appearance, Emus are surprisingly fast and agile runners. Their long legs and powerful muscles enable them to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (50 kilometers per hour).

This height advantage allows them to outpace predators, such as dingoes or foxes, and successfully evade capture. Their ability to swiftly navigate through various terrains makes them well adapted to Australia’s diverse landscapes.

Access to Food

The Emu’s height also grants it access to a wider range of food sources. With their long necks and beaks, Emus can reach vegetation that is out of reach for other ground-dwelling animals. They can browse on leaves, grasses, fruits, and even seeds from tall plants.

This versatility in diet enables Emus to survive in different habitats, especially during times of drought when other food sources may be scarce.

The Emu’s height is not just a physical attribute; it is a crucial aspect of its survival in the Australian ecosystem. From attracting mates to escaping predators and accessing food sources, the Emu’s impressive height plays a vital role in its overall success as a species.

Why Emus Tower Over Other Birds

Emus, the largest bird species in Australia, are known for their impressive height and towering stature. Standing at an average height of around 6 feet (1.8 meters), these flightless birds truly stand out among their avian counterparts. There are several reasons why emus tower over other birds:

Evolutionary History

Emus have a fascinating evolutionary history that has contributed to their impressive height. These birds belong to a group called ratites, which includes flightless birds like ostriches and kiwis. Over millions of years, emus have adapted to their surroundings and evolved larger bodies to effectively navigate their unique environments.

It is believed that emus’ ancestors were once capable of flying, but as they settled in the grasslands and shrublands of Australia, their need for flight diminished. This led to the development of strong legs and a long neck, allowing emus to efficiently forage for food and spot potential threats from a distance.

Ideal Environment

Australia’s diverse and expansive landscape provides an ideal environment for emus to thrive. These birds can be found in a range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and even deserts. Their tall stature gives them an advantage in these environments, as they can easily spot predators or sources of food from a greater distance.

Furthermore, emus have adapted to survive in arid regions where water sources may be scarce. Their bodies are highly efficient at conserving water, allowing them to endure long periods without drinking. This adaptation has contributed to their ability to inhabit various regions across the continent.

Lack of Predators

One of the reasons why emus have been able to grow to such great heights is due to the lack of natural predators in Australia. With their towering stature, emus are less vulnerable to ground-dwelling predators, such as dingoes or foxes, which are unable to take them down easily.

While emus may face threats from larger predators like crocodiles or eagles, their size acts as a deterrent to many potential threats. This has allowed them to flourish and maintain their status as one of Australia’s tallest bird species.

For more information on emus and their unique characteristics, you can visit the National Geographic website, which provides a comprehensive overview of these fascinating creatures.


With its long legs, elongated neck and ability to top 6 feet tall, the emu definitively earns the title of Australia’s tallest bird. The emu’s lofty height provides advantages but also stems from an evolutionary history devoid of regular predation.

Next time you spot these giant birds, appreciate their record-breaking size as Australia’s tallest avian species.

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