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The Cassowary - Our Unique Big Bird

Cassowary Facts
The name cassowary comes from two Papuan words, ‘kasu’ meaning horned and ‘weri’ meaning head, referring to the prominent casque on its head.
An adult cassowary can stand up to 1.8 metres (6’) tall.
The average weight is 38kg (84lb) for males and 47kg (104lb) for females.
Cassowaries can live for 30 to 40 years in the wild.
Cassowaries are generally solitary birds, coming together only to mate during the breeding season which starts around May/June.
The female bird lays several clutches of 3-5 eggs, by different fathers.
The male cassowary is solely responsible for incubating the eggs and raising the young. They sit on the nest for 50 days until the eggs hatch.
The father teaches the chicks how to forage and by nine months they become independent.
The chick’s striped appearance soon fades to brown before their distinctive adult colouring starts to develop. They mature at about three years.
Male birds can be aggressive in defending their chicks. In the wild cassowaries are generally shy and avoid contact with humans.

The southern cassowary is the world’s third largest bird. It is one of Australia’s largest land animals and plays a unique role in the ecology of the World Heritage listed rainforests of tropical Australia

Cassowaries are ratites, flightless birds closely related to the emu, ostrich, kiwi and some extinct species. The Australian sub species is the Southern Cassowary, found in three populations onAustralia’s of Far North Queensland coast. The most vulnerable, is located on the wet tropical rainforest coastal strip between the cities of Townsville and Cooktown.

Both the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the State of Queensland’s Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 1994 list the Southern Cassowary as an endangered species. Scientists believe only 1200 - 1500 cassowaries survive in the wild in Australia, this is comparable with the number of Giant Pandas in China.

Vital to the rainforests’ survival

Cassowaries are a keystone species which means they are vital for seed dispersal in the rainforest. Over 150 rainforest plants rely on them, especially for dispersing the seeds of large-fruit species.

The ecology and extensive distribution of the cassowary makes it an effective conservation "flagship" species whose conservation will have significant flow on benefits for many other species and ecosystems.

Adult Cassowary

Endangered and still threatened:

  • These guardians of the rainforest are still threatened by habitat loss, road deaths and attacks by dogs.

  • More than 80% of its prime habitat, coastal lowland rainforest, has been cleared over the last 100 years.

  • Nearly a quarter of the remaining cassowary habitat has poor conservation protection.

  • Links between the remaining patches of rainforest are essential if the cassowary is to survive.

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