It is a large
that is only found in Papua New Guinea, and in the tropical north
Queensland of Australia.
Its looks alone are impressive, particularly thanks to its beautiful colours and large
known for its importance in the rainforest ecosystem, its rare but potentially fatal attacks,
fact that the bird is endangered.
Cassowary is a ratite
- a flightless bird related to emu.
And there are actually three
different species. Two of them - the northern cassowary
dwarf cassowary are only found in Papua New Guinea, and the third one -
the southern cassowary, is the most common one and also found in
What Do They Look Like?
large birds, up to
two metres tall, and the female
is larger than the male.
Their head and neck are colourful with bright red and blue, and the
brightness of the wattle
changes with the mood.
elongated bodies are covered in black feathers, but juveniles are brown
and look much like emu chicks.
They have large, three
toed feet with claws, and a casque on top of
their head - both great weapons. The casque and the feet of a female
are larger than those of a male.
Where Are Cassowary Birds
Australia, they only live in tropical north Queensland, and their habitat is tropical
They do also come out of the rainforest to the drier vegetation, and you can spot them on your Cape
York trip -
you just have to know the spots they frequent.
The best spots where to see them are
all in the Destination Guide.
Ecology of the Cassowary Bird
see them, you see them
alone, or with chicks, but not in a couple, unless you
happen to see the mating or egg laying.
When you see one with
chicks, it's a male.
Like in other ratites, such as emus, the male is the one to take care
of the chicks -
something that is unusual amongst birds.
The female circles between a few
male territories, and is too busy laying eggs in the next
It is probably the reason why the female is larger, has larger feet and
casque (weapons), and the female is also known to be
more aggressive, particularly towards other females.
Mating and Breeding
The breeding season is
between June and October.
After mating the female lays large,
five in the average. And takes off.
The male incubates
the eggs for about 1.5 months, and after they hatch, looks after the babies
until they take off nine months later.
It is believed that cassowaries live 50 years easy.
What Do they
They are mainly fruit eaters.
They do also eat some other plant material, even small animals and
carrion, but their main diet is fruit, and not only that - rainforest fruit, from a lot of
different species, belonging to more than 20 different families.
large birds they eat large
makes them one of the key species in the rainforest ecosystem.
By eating the fruit, then pooing it out elsewhere they are key spreaders of the seeds
of rainforest trees and other plants, to some species they are the only spreaders.
And the bird is endangered. If
cassowary disappeared, that would be the end of many important plant
species in our rainforests.
many other species, one of the biggest threaths is habitat destruction.
Now that the mass clearing of rainforests no longer happens, tropical cyclones
cause a lot of that.
another huge threat,
probably even larger, is
that humans feed them.
That gets them out of the forest to suburban areas and camping grounds,
it gets them come to the
roads and approach cars, and that is where they get run
Feeding any wild animals, and dingo is another good example, makes them
brave and aggressive.
They start coming to picnic tables stealing food, they start expecting to be given food,
and can get aggressive when they are not given.
cassowaries is now
- which means if right people see it you will get fined.
I am not
feeding on the pic
above, but the way it
approached me, and the way it checks my hand clearly shows s/he is used
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contains information that helps you getting started with planning of your trip.
You get to make early-stages desicions such as when to go, how long time you
should take, how to get
there and get
to stay (general info), what
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and a short insight to what is there to see and do in Cape York.
This complete 300 pages
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background chapters on the peninsula's history and wildlife; and the comprehensive detail about all the places (down to prices, opening hours and full contact detail), it has invaluable information on at least 10 four wheel drive tracks, at least 30 guaranteed FREE camping spots on the Cape (and at least 150 on your way to the Cape), at least 40 best swimming holes, all mapped; as well as practical things - from fuel, roads, wireless internet and mobile phone reception, how to deal with the national parks booking rules; and Aboriginal land entrance and camping permits and alcohol restrictions - to vehicle preparation and accessories and necessary recovery gear by my partner Mark who is the recovery guy on northern Cape York and the Old Telegraph Track). Not to mention locals' tips on how to spot that croc and palm cockatoo ;-)
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