Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
List of Migratory Species - Amendment to the list of migratory species under section 209 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (26/11/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013af) [Legislative Instrument].
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Endangered (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Extinct (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
NGO: Listed as Extinct (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Dromaius baudinianus [26183]
Family Dromaiidae:Struthioniformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Parker, 1984
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Dromaius baudinianus

Common name: Kangaroo Island Emu

The species is conventionally accepted (Christidis & Boles 1994; Marchant & Higgins 1990; Parker 1984b), though it was formerly considered to be the same species of emu that also occurred on King Island in western Bass Strait (Mathews 1911; Parker 1984b).

There are few detailed descriptions of the Kangaroo Island Emu as it was formally described from skeletal remains. The species was a small Emu, smaller than the Emus which inhabited King Island in western Bass Strait (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The species possibly had a white breast, though this is a matter of conjecture (Brasil 1914; Howchin 1926; Morgan & Sutton 1928). It occurred in flocks (Howchin 1926).

The Kangaroo Island Emu was endemic to Kangaroo Island in South Australia (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The last published record of the species was in 1819, and it was certainly extinct by 1836 (Morgan & Sutton 1928; Parker et al. 1979).

Three Kangaroo Island Emus were taken into captivity by Captain Nicolas Baudin in 1803 (Howchin 1926; Morgan & Sutton 1928), and returned to Paris where one was kept in Le Jardin des Plantes and two were kept at La Malmaison, the residence of Empress Josephine Bonaparte; one bird survived until 1822 (Howchin 1926).

There have not been any comprehensive surveys for this species. There have, however, been a number of ornithological surveys on Kangaroo Island since the King Island Emu became extinct (e.g. Cleland 1926, 1942; Jeffery 1957; Lashmar 1935, 1936, 1946; Turner et al. 1974), and many Atlas surveys conducted on Kangaroo Island between 1977 and 1981, and between 1998 and 2002 (Barrett et al. 2003; Blakers et al. 1984), but there has been no sign of the species.

The species was formerly abundant, occurring in 'numerous flocks' (Howchin 1926; Parker et al. 1979), however no population estimate was ever made.

The species was last recorded on Kangaroo Island in 1819, probably became extinct in about 1827 (Parker et al. 1979), and was considered extinct by 1836 (Morgan & Sutton 1928).

The population on Kangaroo Island is thought to have been large (Howchin 1926; Parker et al. 1979), however, no extreme fluctuations in population numbers were reported.

There is no information regarding the generation length of the Kangaroo Island Emu. The generation length of the extant Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), of mainland Australia, is estimated to be 4 years (Garnett & Crowley 2000).

Little is known of the habitats preferred by the Kangaroo Island Emu. It was mostly recorded on beaches and adjacent sand-dunes, and in forests (Howchin 1926; Morgan & Sutton 1928). The birds came down to the beach in the evening to drink at seepages of fresh water in the rocks or at the base of sand-dunes (Howchin 1926).

A suggestion that the species occurred in extensive grasslands has been dismissed (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Parker et al. 1979).

Some Kangaroo Island Emus may have sought refuge from bushfires in the coastal sand-dunes (Morgan & Sutton 1928).

There are no published records of the Kangaroo Island Emu occurring in association with any other listed threatened species.

The ages of sexual maturity, life expectancy and natural mortality of the Kangaroo Island Emu are unknown. The mainland Emu may begin breeding when 20 months old (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The oldest recorded Emu of the mainland species, banded as an adult, survived for 6 years. Although the mainland species can survive for longer in captivity, it is probably not long-lived (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Nothing is known of the reproduction of the Kangaroo Island Emu. Nests may have been placed on the ground, which would have made incubating birds vulnerable to predation. The mainland species of the Emu usually breeds in the winter months, and the start of breeding often begins about two weeks after the first cold snap, though breeding is aborted during droughts (Marchant & Higgins 1990). The nest is a platform of grass, twigs, leaves and bark situated on the ground, in which between 8–13 eggs are laid. The eggs are incubated by the male Emu, which also broods and generally cares for the precocious chicks (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The preferred food of the Kangaroo Island Emu is unknown. The Emu of mainland Australia is omnivorous and eats seeds, fruits, flowers, leaves and other plant material, and insects and their larvae. It forages by plucking items from plants and by picking food items from the ground (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Although the Kangaroo Island Emu has been extinct since the 19th century, surveys appropriate for detection should consist of diurnal area searches within a radius of 500 m at various sites. Searching should attempt to find dung, tracks or feathers. Transect surveys with the same objectives, could also be undertaken in open country on foot or in a vehicle, or aerial surveys in an aircraft (Magrath et al. 2004).

The extinction of the species on Kangaroo Island is thought to have been caused by repeated burning by bushfires, as settlers attempted to convert native habitats into pasture (Ashby 1924; Morgan & Sutton 1928). Some Kangaroo Island Emus were hunted for food by seal-hunters and early settlers. This is not thought to have caused their extinction, though the last bird was said to have been killed in about 1827 by the "wife of a European sealer or runaway sailor" (Morgan & Sutton 1928; Parker et al. 1979). While the last published record of the species was in 1819, and it was believed to have been extinct by 1836 (Morgan & Sutton 1928), there was a doubtful unconfirmed report in 1880 (Condon 1951).

Marchant and Higgins (1990) summarised all that is known about the Kangaroo Island Emu. Critical examinations of various remains collected on Kangaroo Island have been undertaken by Morgan and Sutton (1928) and Parker (1984b).

Althought extinct, the key management documentation for this species is The Action Plan for Australian Birds (Garnett & Crowley 2000), which summarises the critical ecological and conservation data.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Dromaius baudinianus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ip) [Internet].

Ashby, E. (1924). Notes on extinct or rare Australian birds, with suggestions as to some of the causes of their disappearance. Emu. 23:178-183.

Brasil, L. (1914). The Emu of King Island. Emu. 14:88-97.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Cleland, J. (1942). Birds seen on Kangaroo Island by members of the Ralph Tate Society. South Australian Ornithologist. 16:19-21.

Cleland, J.B. (1926). Notes on the birds of Kangaroo Island. South Australian Ornithologist. 8:233-239.

Condon, H.T. (1951). Notes on the birds of South Australia: occurrence, distribution and taxonomy. South Australian Ornithologist. 20:26-68.

Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

Howchin, W. (1926). Some references to the literature concerning the extinct emus of Kangaroo Island and elsewhere. South Australian Ornithologist. 8:244-253.

Jeffery, A. (1957). Birds of Flinders Chase, Kangaroo Island. South Australian Ornithologist. 22:49-52.

Lashmar, A.F.C. (1935). Birds noted in the eastern portion of Kangaroo Island. South Australian Ornithologist. 13:5-7.

Lashmar, A.F.C. (1936). Birds noted in the eastern portion of Kangaroo Island. South Australian Ornithologist. 13:200-203.

Lashmar, A.F.C. (1946). Birds noted in the eastern portion of Kangaroo Island. South Australian Ornithologist. 18:28-30.

Magrath, M.J.L., M.A. Weston, P. Olsen & M. Antos (2004). Draft Survey Standards for Birds: Species Accounts. Melbourne, Victoria: Report for the Department of the Environment and Heritage by Birds Australia.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins, eds. (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume One - Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Mathews, G.M. (1911). The Birds of Australia. Part 1. London: Witherby.

Morgan, A.M. & J. Sutton (1928). A critical description of some recently discovered bones of the extinct Kangaroo Island Emu (Dromaius diemenianus). Emu. 28:1-19.

Parker, S.A. (1984b). The extinct Kangaroo Island Emu, a hitherto-unrecognised species. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 104:19-22.

Parker, S.A., H.J. Eckert, G.B. Ragless, J.B. Cox & N.C.H. Reid (1979). An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of South Australia. 1. Emus to Spoonbills. Adelaide, South Australia: South Australian Ornithological Association.

Turner, E.K., E. Costermans, I. Jackson, L.M. White, B. Denton, F. Denton & M. Taylor (1974). FNCV excursion to Kangaroo Island, South Australia 1-9 September 1974. Victorian Naturalist. 91:312-321.

EPBC Act email updates can be received via the Communities for Communities newsletter and the EPBC Act newsletter.

This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Dromaius baudinianus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Tue, 23 Sep 2014 02:07:45 +1000.