Cassowary (bird a day)

The bird of the day is the Cassowary. It is a shy, flightless bird and has no problem getting aggressive, if needed. It prefers to live deep in the forest far away from people. And it should stay that way. I read that hand-feeding the cassowary is extremely dangerous to the animal and aiding in its demise, so don’t do it!

These birds are very interesting indeed. One of the cassowaries (the Southern) is the 2nd heaviest extant bird in the world after the ostrich and third tallest (after ostrich and emu). It sorta looks like it is in that family of birds, doesn’t it? Interestingly enough the females are both bigger and more brightly colored. This is different than many birds. YAY! WOMAN COLOR POWER! =) And these birds are 5 to 6 feet tall and weight about 150lbs…some females even get up to over 6 1/2 feet!! Even their eggs are big (3 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches). Goodness! Can you imagine facing this bird down!?!?! Frightening! To add to its powerful height, it has very sharp and hard claws at around 5 inches each! This would be extremely frightening!

The female cassowaries are unique in another way as well. They do not incubate their eggs, the males do but once their chicks are hatched, you better watch out. They are fierce protectors. =) Good mama!

All of that aggression and size and fear built up and guess what they eat? Fruit mainly (though they do eat small insects and such from time to time). Cassowaries are predominantly frugivorous. And when the fruit is recycled through them the seeds are redistributed throughout the land and so they replenish the fruit in the jungles and tropical forests where they live. Isn’t that nice? And we thought they were so mean.

Despite their gentle diet and dietary recycling these birds are large, wary of people, extremely protective of their young and unpredictable.1 They should not be approached. Besides as I said before, it is not a good idea to hand-feed them. It endangers them and apparently you too. If you ever encounter one it is recommended that you put something between you and the bird (preferably not your significant other or children — maybe a backpack or stick) and back away slowly, allowing it to go on its merry way.2

They have this hard head decoration. It fascinates me. Almost like a beak material but it goes up over their head. These are called casques. It is not definitively known why they have these but scientists are trying to figure it out. There are two theories that I found. One speculating it is to protect the cassowary’s skull when running at high speeds through plants and forests and such and the other speculates what role the casque plays in sound reception or acoustic communication.3

And two last tidbits…they have a very low frequency call, so low that it is on the “edge of human hearing,”4 and they are endangered. Gah! What is with picking all the endangered birds first. How sad. Let’s see what we can do to help keep this bird alive.

Read here for more information on the cassowary.

  1. http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/cassowary/ []
  2. http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation/wildlife/threatened_plants_and_animals/endangered/cassowary/ []
  3. wikipedia []
  4. wikipedia []

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