Durham emu, who ran away after being bullied by other emus, is found safe

Several Durham residents got video and photos of Darwin the emu after he escaped from his home. He was captured safely by Durham County Sheriff’s deputies.
Several Durham residents got video and photos of Darwin the emu after he escaped from his home. He was captured safely by Durham County Sheriff’s deputies. Jenni J-Star Berzinskas Facebook screen grab

A wayward emu that has been making occasional appearances in North Durham neighborhoods was cornered by sheriff’s deputies Saturday and returned safely to its owner.

Darwin the emu had been on the run for two or three weeks, his owner Jurgen Henn told the News & Observer Saturday, and had been spotted several times in northeast Durham, including in some woods near Carrington Middle School. But he eluded capture and mostly kept to himself — until Durham-centric social media pages started booming in the last few days with rumors of new emu sightings, including one post of a video clip someone got of the emu in her neighborhood.

Many online commenters referenced the late Eno The Emu, a bird who was spotted numerous times near the Orange-Chatham county line earlier this year before he was accidentally killed by would-be rescuers.

But Darwin experienced a happier end to his time on the lam. Henn said the bird is “a little beat up” from his time in the wild but is expected to make a full recovery.

However, he’s now looking for a new home for Darwin. Henn thinks Darwin might have run off because Henn’s other two emus, Sydney and Melbourne — who are now a couple — were bullying Darwin.

He said they started ganging up on Darwin last year, when they first started pairing up, but he thought things had died down. But he was wrong.

“They were getting along well enough that we didn’t really worry about it,” Henn said. “But now as this new breeding season started up they started harassing him more, and he decided he wanted to get out of here.”

Or at least, that’s his best guess. Even though Henn has had the 7-year-old bird since he was a tiny chick, he can’t always tell Darwin’s motivations.

“It’s hard to fathom the mind of an emu,” he said.

There were rumors that Darwin had been hit by a car, but Henn said that doesn’t appear to be the case. He credited the local deputies for capturing the bird safely.

“It was a little weird and embarrassing to pull up to two police cruisers on the side of the road with a guy guarding the emu,” he said. “It was embarrassing. But we do appreciate the sheriff’s department. They were really helpful.”

AnnMarie Breen, spokeswoman for the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies received multiple calls about the bird over the past several weeks and are happy they were finally able to catch it without it running back into the woods.

“The bird is perfectly fine and did not bother anybody while it was out taking a vacation,” Breen said.

The emu chase hasn’t been Henn’s first brush with minor local celebrity in Durham. He also runs the @11foot8bridge Twitter account, which posts videos of trucks running into a relatively short bridge in downtown Durham.

Will Doran reports on North Carolina politics, with a focus on state employees and agencies. In 2016 he started The News & Observer’s fact-checking partnership, PolitiFact NC, and before that he reported on local governments around the Triangle. Contact him at wdoran@newsobserver.com or (919) 836-2858.