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Cassowary - The Curious Flightless Dangerous Bird

Cassowary, the Shy and the Dangerous

Have you ever heard about birds which are not very common and usually considered to be shy in the deep forests? So much so that they tend to disappear before human beings know that they are there. These three 'nearly threatened' or 'vulnerable' species are quite attractive but may not be adored so much for fear of attack. Yes, they could be very very dangerous. These heaviest flightless birds can attack and even kill a human being.

Stay with me to appreciate the beauty and know the fierce nature of this unique bird.

NameAltenate NameSpeciesFound in

Southern Cassowary

Double-wattled Cassowary

Casuarius casuarius

Southern New Guinea, Northeastern Australia and the Aru Islands (mainly in lowlands).

Dwarf Cassowary

Bennett's Cassowary

Casuarius bennetti

New Guinea, New Britain and Yapen (mainly in highlands)

Northern Cassowary

Single-wattled Cassowary

Casuarius unappendiculatus

Northern and Western New Guinea and Yapen (mainly in lowlands)

With blue neck and face, the Southern Cassowary is also known as Australian Cassowary. Two red wattles make the distinction from the other two species, earning another name Double wattled Cassoway. Stiff black plumage and a horn-like brown caseque together make this largest cassowary in the family a very attractive bird. The caseque grows with the age. Female cassowaries are normally bigger in size and are also coloured more brightly.

The favourite diet of cassowary is surprisingly fruit. They pick up dropping fruit and swallow them whole, even if it is of the size of banana. But that is not their only diet. They also eat insects, frogs, fish, rats, flowers and snails.

Wattles

Hanging down from the brightly coloured neck in blue, purple and yellow, two red wattles (which are loose skin) make it a uniquely coloured large bird.

Power of Legs and Feet

The legs of Cassowary have enormous power. They have the capability of kicking the human beings or animals with both legs in the forests. Clubbed with legs are their peculiar feet which have three toes. The middle toe has a dagger like claw which is about 12 cms in size. Apart from the power of legs, it is this part of the feet which deters others to even come near to it and it can pierce through the body parts of the person it attacks.

Eyes and Beak

They have peculiar amber coloured eyes and long, curved beaks.

Eggs, Incubation and Protecting Chicks

Three to eight eggs, dark bright green or pale green-blue, are laid by females in a heap of leaf litter prepared for the purpose. Females are free from this duty and incubation of the eggs is done by the males for about 50-52 days. Thereafter, protection of the chicks is also the responsibility of the males which extends to even nine months. During this period predators are taken care of by males till such time they are able to find their own territory. Sometimes young cassowaries are also kept as pets by the natives.

Chicks of cassowaries are striped dark brown and creamy white when they are newly hatched. However, these stripes fade and change to brown plumage within a period of three to six months. The colour further darkens and the wattles and casque develop later. A mature cassowary is seen in about three years of time.

Attack on Humans

The smallest of the known cassowary species, it is also called Little Cassowary or Benett's Casswowary (named after Australian naturalist who first examined these birds). Their population is unknown but believed to be declining and is now classified as 'Near Threatened'. Their plumage is hard and black, neck is blue with red patches and the casque is relatively low and triangular shaped. The size of the female is slightly large including that of casque.

Mountain forests of New Guinea, New Britain and Yapen Islands have the breeding population. Like other species they also like fruit found fallen in the forests, small animals and insects.

Another species of cassowary is called Golden Neck or Single Wattled. The most striking part of this species of Cassowary is the bright red or yellow coloured neck. Like double wattled, they also have strong legs with huge feet including dagger like claw in the middle. Females are heavier than males - averaging to 58 kgs as compared to males between 30-37 kgs.

This species also exhibits the characteristics of shyness and solitary nature and the eating habits of fruit and small animals. Males take over the job of raising the chicks for about nine months.

Safety of Cassowaries - Caution Sign Boards

There are threats to Cassowaries and they are classified in the 'Threatened' and 'Vulnerable' categories. Apart from loss of rain forests, their natural habitat, there is a danger due to road accidents. More than fifty percent of Cassowary deaths are due to hitting by cars which pass through rain forests. That is why there are caution signs put at different place to control the speed of car drivers and minimise the loss due to road accidents.

Your knowledge about Cassowary

Comments

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on December 26, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by, misterhollywood. Since Cassowary are shy and in limited numbers at particular geographical area, not many people come to know about these birds. But it really interesting to know about them. Have a Happy New Year, 2014.

John Hollywood from Hollywood, CA on December 26, 2013:

Very cool article - and interesting! I had no idea about this bird until read your information. Thumbs up!

- Mister Hollywood

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on October 04, 2013:

iguidenetwork, There is hardly any accidental learning about Cassowary because of their limited availability in certain pockets. Some call them related to dinosaur even. But it is interesting to know about them. Thanks for the visit and the support.

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on October 03, 2013:

Interesting bird. I thought they were related to vultures and eat the same the same thing (carcasses). The chick in the pic is cute, hehehe. Thanks for posting. Up and interesting.

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on September 27, 2013:

Elias Zanetti, There is a lot to learn during our lifetime. Thanks to the internet that we get so much of information and we are closer to each other. Thanks for stopping by and voting/pinning.

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on September 27, 2013:

Very interesting hub and facts my friend and such a great presentation! Voted and pinned!

Sukhdev Shukla (author) from Dehra Dun, India on September 27, 2013:

Eileen Hughes, Yes, most of the photograph seen are in captivity. It is interesting to note their shyness in spite of their aggressive nature. Thanks for visiting. Have a nice time.

Eileen Hughes from Northam Western Australia on September 27, 2013:

They definitely are not the easiest of birds to see or take photos. As soon as you spot one they are gone. Have couple of not so good photos that's all. Great hub full a good information

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