Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cassowary

I've been reading this quite delightful book called Birdology, which devotes each of its chapters to a different type of bird, and the author's experiences with the bird. Well, chapter two is all about the Cassowary. Cassowaries are large, flightless birds endemic to Northern Australia and New Guinea. They are among the largest birds in the world, and their closest living relatives are the Australian Emus.

Image from CCWild
There are three extant species of Cassowary, all belonging to genus Casuarius. They are the Southern Cassowary, the Northern Cassowary, and the Dwarf Cassowary. All three species are similar in appearance. The birds sport large crowns called casques on their heads. The true purpose of the casque is unknown, but speculation is that they may help to produce low frequency sounds. Cassowaries have long, course, black feathers that cover most of their bodies. They neck is naked, and sports blue and red skin. The species differ in size, casque appearance, and type of (or lack of) wattle. Male Cassowaries are smaller than the females.

The only time I've ever
seen a Cassowary
Cassowaries are solitary birds most of the time. If a male successfully courts a female, the couple will remain together for a few weeks until the eggs are laid. (If unsuccessful, he can be seriously injured!) Once laid, the female departs, and has nothing to do with the incubation and care of her offspring. All of those duties go to the male. He incubates for about 50 days, and then cares for his offspring for an additional nine months, teaching them how to find food and avoid predators.

Cassowaries are responsible for numerous attacks on human beings, and are listed as the world's most dangerous bird. The inside third toe in each of their feet is actually a spike that grows nearly five inches long. When threatened, the Cassowary is capable of leaping several feet into the air and attacking with their clawed feet. When not being threatened, they are very shy creatures, and can be extremely difficult to spot in the wild. They are also relatively uncommon in zoos, due to their nature. Native people in New Guinea hunt Cassowaries, and use their claws and bones to make weapons.

1 comment:

  1. luv Cassowaries so so so so so so sooooooo much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete

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