Double-wattled cassowary, Australian cassowary, Two-wattled cassowary
The Southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) is a large flightless bird closely related to the emu, ostriches, rheas and kiwis. It looks somewhat like a huge prehistoric turkey on stilts, wearing a large pointed casque or helmet. It is the second biggest bird on Earth alive today. Its name is from a Papuan word meaning ‘horned head’, a reference to the helmet made of tough skin on the top of its head. This casque slopes backward and the bird uses it to push through vegetation when running through the rainforest, head down. Its 'helmet' also reflects dominance and age.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
A frugivore is an animal that thrives mostly on raw fruits or succulent fruit-like produce of plants such as roots, shoots, nuts, and seeds. Approx...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
A cursorial organism is one that is adapted specifically to run. An animal can be considered cursorial if it has the ability to run fast (e.g. chee...
Flightless birds are birds that through evolution lost the ability to fly. There are over 60 extant species including the well known ratites (ostri...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
Zoochory animals are those that can disperse plant seeds in several ways. Seeds can be transported on the outside of vertebrate animals (mostly mam...
Island endemic animals are found in a single defined geographic location, such as an island. Animals or organisms that are indigenous to a place ar...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one female lives and mates with multiple males but each male only mates with a single female.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The southern cassowary has stiff, bristly black plumage, a blue face, and a long neck, red on the cape, and two red wattles measuring around 17.8 cm (7.0 in) in length hanging down around its throat. A horn-like brown casque, measuring 13 to 16.9 cm (5.1 to 6.7 in) high, sits atop the head. The bill can range from 9.8 to 19 cm (3.9 to 7.5 in). The three-toed feet are thick and powerful, equipped with a lethal dagger-like claw up to 12 cm (4.7 in) on the inner toe. The sexes look alike, but the female is dominant and larger with a longer casque, larger bill, and brighter-colored bare parts. The juveniles have brown longitudinal striped plumage.
Southern cassowaries occur in New Guinea and Queensland, Australia. This bird lives in rainforests, although it can also be found in nearby mangroves, savanna, and sometimes in fruit plantations.
Southern cassowaries are not able to fly, having very small wings. Instead, they use their strong legs for mobility and to defend themselves. They are almost silent when walking slowly through the forest. If they are alarmed, they can crash through the forest at nearly 50 kilometers per hour, pushing vegetation out of their way with the bony casques on their heads. These birds are diurnal, they rest during the middle of the day, mainly foraging in the morning and late afternoon. They swim well and are good jumpers. This species is shy and solitary but can be aggressive, occasionally attacking humans, lashing out with their powerful legs and large claws. Being solitary, they have a home range which they defend against other cassowaries. While in the forest, they make a very loud, deep territorial roar which is able to be heard by others from a significant distance away.
These birds are polyandrous; a female mates with more than one male, and disappears straight after she has laid the eggs, starting a new nest each time. Courtship by the male consists of calling “boo-boo-boo” while inflating his throat. The breeding season in New Guinea begins when the dry season finishes and runs from June until October in Queensland. Nests are shallow depressions scraped in the ground, lined with leaves and grasses, and very well camouflaged amongst the vegetation. Several clutches of 3-5 greenish eggs may be laid during the breeding season. Incubation is by the male and lasts about 50 days. Chicks remain with their father for about nine months until they become independent. Southern cassowaries are reproductively mature at about three years old.
The destruction of tropical wet coastal lowland habitats and rainforests is the most important threat to the Southern cassowary population. The forest is cleared for agriculture and development, causing populations to become isolated and fragmented, reducing genetic variation. These birds also may not have access in their forest patches to sufficient food or water. Traffic accidents also kill many of these birds, particularly in Queensland, where more humans are coming to live. Humans also bring dogs, which prey particularly on young birds. Some communities in New Guinea rely on cassowaries as a food source and so heavily hunt these birds.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total Southern cassowary population size is 20,000-49,000 mature individuals. Currently, Southern cassowaries are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but their numbers today are decreasing.
The main role of the Southern cassowaries in the ecosystem where they live is to disperse seeds of fruits they consume in their diet.