What is a Cassowary?
- The cassowary is a rare and endangered species, a large flightless bird up to two metres tall weighing up to 70 kg.that can run up to 50 km/h and kill a dog or person with one slash of its massive claws.
They only live in the rain forests of far north Queensland and New Guinea and are related to the Emu, African Ostrich, the New Zealand Kiwi, the South American Rhea, and the now extinct Moa and Elephant Bird..
After crossing the Daintree river, please keep your speed down and be vigilant in case cassowaries unexpectedly step out on the road. Despite their large size they can be hard to see with their dark colour and they will not necessarily move out of the way when you approach. If you do see one on the road the first rule is not to feed them and even better scare them away by beeping your car horn or other action, it is for their benefit not to feel comfortable on the road.
Watch out for cassowaries crossing the roads!
More About The Cassowary
The flightless Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) has been walking around this planet sincewell before the ancient super continent Gondwana broke up in to the continents we know nowadays. They belong to a family of birds called ratites. In Papua New Guinea there are two more species of cassowary but in Australia the only species is the Southern Cassowary.
Cassowaries (genus Casuarius) are frugivorous; fallen fruit and fruit on low branches is the largest part of their diet, but they also eat fungi, insects, frogs, spiders, snakes and other small animals, even dead animals and roadkills. They live for about 40-50 years. They are the third-largest bird in the world (the ostrich and emu are a bit bigger). They have a keratin casque on the head that is used to work their way through dense vegetation.
The casque also protects the head by deflecting falling fruit, the cassowary spends a lot of time under trees where fruit falls and golf ball sized fruits falling from twenty metres can be very painful. Normally cassowaries are inquisitive but quite shy, however when they feel threatened or want to protect their young they can lash out dangerously with their powerful legs and jump and kick with both legs at once. Their three-toed feet have very sharp claws; the dagger-like middle claw is 12 cm long. Cassowaries are very capable of killing dogs by disemboweling them and have injured people but only one death has been recorded in Australia, They are also good swimmers and have been found in the ocean swimming out to islands. Cassowaries are usually solitary birds, females will cruise around the forest mating with several males during the breeding season from May to November. The smaller sized male must approach the larger female with caution because if she is not in the mood she is capable of seriously injuring him. The male begins courtship by circling around the female and making a low rumbling sound. When she has laid her eggs, three to eight, measuring about 90 by 140 mm and pale green-blue in color, in a shallow scrape in the ground in which the male has placed leaves and grass, she moves on again to repeat the process with another male. It is the male's duty to incubate the eggs for about fifty days and also to care for the chicks for another year or so. The chicks are striped until they are about 6-9 months old and become a glossy black colour when they are about 3 years old. By that time, the skin on the neck and head begins to turn to bright colours, and the casque begins to develop.
The different stages of life of a cassowary, from hatching to stripey chick, to brown juvenile to full adult.
- Watch some movies below of cassowaries in the Daintree.
Although they are still classed as endangered the last few years they have made a good comeback around Cape Tribulation and have increased in numbers, places like Rainforest Hideaway B&B often see them daily.