Today, we are back at Kirkleatham Owl Centre, giving you a behind the scenes tour. Read about the birds, watch their progress in training, and get up close and personal with other residents, including the meerkat and porcupine families. This week, it is time to meet the largest residents...

Meet the emu, the biggest birds around, In fact they are the second biggest in the world – only the ostrich is bigger – and they can grow to 6ft tall.

There are two emu at the centre, six-year-old sisters who go by the names of Donk and Didge.

The Northern Echo:

One of the emu sisters

They arrived at the centre as tiny babies – only two weeks old, comical looking with black and white stripes – looking for all the world like giant humbug sweets. But they didn’t stay small for long.

The Northern Echo:

A ‘humbug-looking’ baby emu

In their younger days these two took part in our flying displays –being flightless they of course didn’t fly, but they did run – very, very fast – emu can run at more than 30mph. Their huge legs and dinosaur like feet propelling them at great speed.

These days they have stepped back from flying displays, prefering to lounge in the sun or take a bath in the rain – emu love to bath.

The Northern Echo:

One of the emu enjoying the rain

In their native Australia, emu inhabit the arid outback, living in loose groups, they wander searching for their food, and emu are not that picky, fruits, seeds, grass, insects even the odd small lizard.

They are cultural icons in Australia featuring on coins and the national coat of arms. They also have a very important place in indigenous Australian culture.

Although we have two sisters and no male that doesn’t stop them from laying eggs. Between them they lay about 30 eggs a year and they lay them from about January to March and like everything to do with emu, the eggs are big, and a beautiful dark green in colour.

The Northern Echo:

An emu egg next to a chicken’s egg

Emu eggs are in demand for carving and decorating. We actually sell most of our emu eggs for this purpose, but we don’t waste the contents, so we drill a small hole then drain off the yolk and white which is then scrambled and makes a tasty treat for our meerkats, then the eggs are then rinsed and go for carving.

The Northern Echo:

Is it a dinosaur print or emu print?

Emu don’t make much noise. Their calls are limited to hissing and a loud booming call, which is used to defend their territory and ward off rivals and the thing Donk and Didge try to ward off the most – a wheelie bin. Yep, that’s right, if you wheel the wheelie bin past their paddock they go into a frenzy of booming calls, charging around--trying to drive off the deadly wheelie bin.

Emu are big, but not always the brightest.