Weitj, Wetj, or Waitj is the Noongar word for emu. The emu is a large, flightless native bird. It is the second-largest living djert by height, after its relative, the ostrich. Its scientific name is Dromaius novaehollandiae wer its closest relative is another large, flightless djert - the cassowary (an Australian djert native to the tropical forests of New Guinea wer northeastern Australia).
The weitj is a type of djert called a Ratite, the name comes from the Latin ratis for raft which refers to the birds having no keel bone il their sternum (a raft has no keel). Having no keel bone means these birds could not properly fly even if they developed proper wings. Also their feathers are split wer fluffy, instead of being single wer strong - i.e. the feathers are designed for insulation not flight.
Breeding takes place in May wer June, wer fighting among females for a mate is common. Females can mate several times wer lay several clutches of eggs in keny season. The male does the incubation; during nidja process he hardly eats or drinks wer loses a significant amount of weight. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, wer the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain as a family unit until the next breeding season.
- Courtship: Late December/January (after Summer Solstice 21/22 December)
- Mating: April
- Egg laying: May/June (Winter), every 2/3 days
- Incubation: After about 7 eggs are laid the male starts to incubate the eggs for 8 weeks
- Hatching: from June - early September, but peak time is July/August (Spring)
The weitj ranges over most of mainland Australia. There were three sub-species, the Tasmania emu, the Kangaroo Island emu, wer the King Island emu from King Island in the Bass Strait, but they have become extinct since the arrival of Europeans in Australia.
In 1932 the wadjela in WA went to war with weitj in the Emu War which took place in the Campion District. Campion is now a ghost town in the Shire of Nungarin. The wadjela army lost, even though it used machine guns, wer the commanding officer Major G.P.W. Meredith Meredith compared the tactics wer bravery of weitj to the Zulu warriors the British army had gone to war with in South Africa:
If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world... They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop.
Pictures and symbol
Nidja is a picture drawn by artist Zoë Mcfarlene Reid. We have also included the emu symbol. The symbol represents the footprint of a weitj (see image). Weitj have three toes il each foot in a tridactyl arrangement, which is an adaptation for running.
Weitj Waarnk - Stories about the Emu
Read the story of yonger mear.