EYEING YOU OFF: Emus might look silly, but don’t underestimate them.
EYEING YOU OFF: Emus might look silly, but don’t underestimate them. Alex Leggett Gatton Star

Naughty Korner: My close shave with randy emu

THE story of a man being attacked by an emu up in Maryborough this week may have drawn the odd cheeky laugh from those unfamiliar with this unconventional Aussie icon.

I will be the first to admit that the emu can appear comical from a distance - or from the other side of a large fence - with their strange walking style and habits.

One example of the strange behaviour of emus; if you approach a group of these birds and whistle like a wedge-tailed eagle, they will perform a sort of corroboree-like dance, which is designed to protect the young from aerial attack.

Part of this performance includes jumping several feet in the air and kicking the legs out to the side, before landing awkwardly.

This can look funny from a safe distance, but get into a pen with the things and you might change your mind.

A few years back I was given a guided tour through a farm containing a few hundred emus. It was the first time I'd ever been so close to so many of these fine animals.

The first thing that struck me - apart from their imposing size - was that despite their physical similarities, not all emus are the same. Personality differences and pecking orders exist - different individuals are known for certain behaviours.

Some of the larger male emus will try to stand over you - extending your arm up in the air like a big neck and forming the shape of a beak with your hand can fool the bird into thinking you are a bigger version of him.

This trick works, sometimes.

The particular pen that I was in contained a bird of dubious character, who did not seem to mind whether he directed his sexual advances at males or females - emus or otherwise - if you catch my drift.

To put it in plain English, this one emu - which my experienced guide had specifically warned me about - was a relentless sexual predator.

Impervious to the old handy-beaky trick, this randy specimen was all in my face like a bad smell from the moment he first laid eyes on me. For several minutes I was too afraid to turn my back.

It was lucky I had the guide with me that day, because when things started getting really uncomfortable, he was able to pick the offending bird up like a big stuffed toy and toss him into a small dam to cool down.

The bird emerged from the water unharmed and unperturbed, running back up to me for another crack, but he eventually settled down.

After this experience I had to ask myself some serious questions about life, such as; why did this one bird turn out this way?

Was he just born like that, or did something bad happen to him when he was a hatchling? Was this pen of emus a sort of microcosm of life across the animal kingdom?

One thing is for sure, despite their comical appearance, emus are not an animal to be taken lightly.