Next Score View the next score

    Emu chicks begin hatching at Harvard Museum of Natural History

    Emu chicks have started to hatch on the premises this week.
    Emu chicks have started to hatch on the premises this week.

    Harvard University is home to Nobel Prize-winning scholars; it’s hosted such musical stalwarts as Nas and welcomed Lady Gaga to campus in 2012.

    President Obama even has ties to the Ivy League institution.

    But according to Jennifer Peterson, the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s senior educator, those appearances pale in comparison to the school’s latest guests: emu chicks that began to hatch on the premises this week.


    “I don’t know about Lady Gaga, but maybe they’re a little more popular than President Obama,” Peterson said.

    Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
    Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    On Thursday morning, the first of seven emu chicks that have been incubating at the Cambridge museum for two months finally pushed its way through the thick, dark eggshell it had called home.

    Two more hatched by late afternoon.

    “It has been one busy day,” museum officials said in a statement on Facebook.

    Other eggs have also started to wiggle and move, with beaks poking through cracks on a few of them. Peterson and researchers at the museum expect to welcome the arrival of more chicks soon.


    “It’s hard to know because it can take up to 24 hours for them to fully hatch, but the shells are broken, and you can kind of see their beaks,” Peterson said.

    The idea to house the avocado-shaped eggs came at the request of the museum’s director, who took on a similar experiment when working at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Conn.

    The birds, which are native to Australia, are remarkable for the size of their eggs, which weigh about two pounds each, and the fact that emus are among the dinosaurs’ closest living relatives.

    The Harvard museum took in the eggs and placed them in an incubator 54 days ago, after receiving them from the Songline Emu Farm in the western part of the state.

    Since then, experts have been patiently waiting for the flightless birds to make their grand entrance.


    “They have been wiggling for 10 days now,” Peterson said. “It’s cool when they start rocking back and forth. That was very exciting.”

    After the first emu hatched Thursday morning, the bird was moved to a separate space within the museum, where visitors could come in and see it on its first day exploring the world.

    According to museum officials, emu chicks can walk shortly after hatching.

    The chicks will be on view for a week before going back to the farm to be reunited with their parents. Their father will teach them how to find food and stay safe from predators.

    The hatching coincides — albeit by coincidence — with the museum’s latest bird exhibit. The gallery includes a section on ratites, the family of flightless birds to which the emus belong.

    Once all the chicks have been hatched, the museum will consider names.

    On the museum’s Facebook page, curators compiled a list of potential monikers, including Cambridge, Kendall, Kenmore, Porter, Harvard, and Alewife.

    Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.