The Southern Cassowary is also known as the Double-Wattled Cassowary. This bird is in a group of animals called Ratites. Ratites are large fightless birds. Some other Ratites are Northern Cassowaries, Dwarf Cassowaries, Rhias, Ostriches and Emus. Southern Cassowaries are very territorial. Cassowaries bath in water to cool off and to get parasites off. Adults are good swimmers and can cross rivers.
You can tell the difference between the Northern and Southern Cassowary. The Southern Cassowary has 2 wattles while the Northern Cassowary only has 1. The Southern Cassowary is 1.5 meters or five feet. This means it is as large as a man. This means it is Australia's second largest bird! The more bent the crest the older the Cassowary is and the more dominant! Female Cassowarys are more dominant and stronger than the males. Female Cassowaries can weigh up to 60 Kg.
Cassowary are the only type of Ratites that live in the Rainforest! The Southern Cassowary lives in Northern Eastern rainforest of tropical north Queensland.
Diet and Importance
The Southern Cassowary eats 5 kg of fruit a day. But Cassowaries also eat fungi and small insects. Fungus is important when fruit is not plentiful. Cassowaries can't chew instead they swallow food whole. To find enough food they will walk 7 kilometres every day! They drink a lot throughout the day. Cassowaries are so important because when the fruit comes out the other end it still has the seeds so it plants new plants.
Breeding and Caring For Young
The chicks look completely different from the adults. A Cassowary call is different from every other birds call. They are always careful when they come together to mate because, they are solitary (live along) animals. If the female approves of him they will spend around a month together. A female Southern Cassowary can mate 3 times in a mating season with different males. Unlike most animals the father will raise the chicks. The father will take care of them for around 9 months. The eggs are green. As the male sits on his eggs he is extremely carefull. Sometime not all the eggs will actually be his. He will keep his eggs together to keep the eggs at a good temperature. He will sit on the eggs for 50 days and 50 nights. Not very often the dad will leave for food and water. Adult Cassowaries can get very hot because of their black feathers but the chicks with their feathers not all black they are a lot cooler. The reason the babies are the colour they are is to blend in with the leef litter. This helps them survive. The babies are most vulnerable at 2 weeks. The babies will copy off dad to learn all the survival skills they need to know for life. When they are 8 months old the chicks loose their stripes. The father will take care of them for around 9 months.
Threats to cassowaries include deforestation, getting hit by cars, feral animals (Feral Pigs prey on their eggs as well as their chicks and Wild Dog attacks can be fatal for Cassowaries), global warming causes more extreme weather like cyclones which destroy their rainforest home as well as domestic dog attacks. These are the reasons there are less than 1,500 left in the wild!
Fortunately there are feral pig trappers to reduce the population of feral pigs. After cyclone Larry Queensland Parks and Wildlife and the Cassowary Response Team relocated Cassowaries to healthy Rainforest. There are also many breeding programs for these birds.
Steffen and Alexandra Sailor