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Cassowary - The Curious 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.
Recognised species of Cassowary
Southern New Guinea, Northeastern Australia and the Aru Islands (mainly in lowlands).
New Guinea, New Britain and Yapen (mainly in highlands)
Northern and Western New Guinea and Yapen (mainly in lowlands)
#1. Southern Cassowary or Double-wattled Cassowary
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.
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.
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.
There are wide varieties of fruit available in the rain forests and cassowary play an important role to maintain the ecosystem by dispersing the seeds in different areas as they excrete. So, they can be called important natural vehicles in maintaining the rain forests.
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. Apart from power of the 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.
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 caseque develop later. A mature cassowary is seen in about three years of time.
#2. Dwarf Cassowary - Casuarius bennetti
The smallest of the known cassowary species, it is also called Little Cassowary and 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 has the breeding population. Like other species they also like fruit found fallen in the forests, small animals and insects
Egg of Dwarf Cassowary
Encounter at a Beach - Wild Cassowary
#3. Northern Cassowary - Single-wattled Cassowary
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 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 exhibit the characteristics of shyness and solitary nature and also the eating habits of fruit and small animals.Males take over the job of raising the chicks for about nine months.
Safety of Cassowaires - 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.