The Double Wattled Cassowary Casuarius  is a large flightless bird native to the tropical forests of New Guinea and the forests of North Queensland in Australia.  It is the third tallest bird in the world next to the Emu and Ostrich which are slightly larger.

There are three main species of Cassowary...

  • The Southern Cassowary aka Double Wattled Cassowary Casuarius
  • Dwarf Cassowary Bennetti
  • Northern Cassowary Unappendiculatus

There is not a plethora of information about the Northern and Dwarf Cassowary as these birds don't stay in the open long enough for ornithologists to properly conduct any form of research on.  They are very adept at concealing themselves in the undergrowth and forest land and prefer to run off and hide when people or any form of danger approaches.

Well this was  the situation only until recently, as the birds habits are changing due to the destruction of their natural habitat, as you will read further down the page.

If a Cassowary is disturbed then generally the bird will choose to fight rather than flight and it can inflict severe and fatal injuries to anyone unfortunate enough to be attacked by one. 

 

Cassowaries will also attack cars and will kick with their feet and stab with their beaks at doors and windows, this has lead many suburbs of Queensland in Australia into having warning signs at the sides of the road.

Motorist's will generally be safe in their cars, just as long as they don't get out and try to tackle or ward off the enraged bird.

The Cassowary has a three toes on each of its two feet and these toes have very long and sharp talons protruding from them.  The Cassowary uses its feet like a black belt Karate expert and can deliver very fast, powerful and accurate kicks to its enemy, in many cases the sharp claws can rip open any quarry just as a thrust from a dagger could do.

 

Below a Cassowary attacks a photographer who was wise enough to have armed himself with a shield before getting too close to one.  The bird uses its size as well as its talons to overpower an enemy and if you fall to the ground then the bird will stomp and peck you, it also has a very sharp and pointed beak!

We have to take into account that the middle talon in particular is about five to six inches long.  This along with the aggressive fighting technique makes the Double Wattled Cassowary the most dangerous bird in the World. The large and dangerous claws or talons of the Golden Necked Cassowary below are quite evident, it has been said they can disembowel a person with a single kick.

The Cassowary is officially listed as the most dangerous bird in the world because of its ferocious Karate style kick fighting tactics and people are warned to stay clear of them.  When these birds do attack it is normally because they feel threatened.

The Double Wattled Cassowary can grow to between five feet eight inches tall and six feet eight inches and can weigh up to one hundred and fifty-four pounds which means its the second heaviest bird in the world next to the Ostrich.  Generally it is the female that grows the largest and they also have the brightest colors to their necks and wattles.

The Cassowary can run up to thirty miles per hour and has been observed jumping at heights of over five feet.  Whether or not they can swim has never been recorded although some unofficial accounts state that the bird can indeed swim in waters up to its neck but this as yet needs to be officially documented.

They are omnivorous and feed mainly on fruit but also they eat shoots, grasses, mushrooms, along with  insects, snails, snakes and frogs.  Much of the berries, and fruit that they eat is all digested apart from the seeds which pass through its system and in fact help to plant new growth in the rain forests.  Thus this bird is important in that it helps with the regeneration of the forests.

Cassowaries all have hard leathery horn shaped crests / helmets called casques on the tops of their heads, the use of which is not really understood.

Some ornithologists think that these casques amplify resonance as it was discovered that the bird can emit sound in an ultra low frequency hum that may be used to attract a mate.  Some other ornithologists speculate that the casque may be another weapon in the birds arsenal and that it may use it to 'head-butt' enemies.

Another use maybe for foraging around in the undergrowth to uncover insects and worms,  whilst the most common thought is that the bird uses this casque to help part the bushes as it runs headlong through them...and quite fast too.

The birds head and neck have no feathers growing on them, also the ruffled skin on their necks can differ in color from an iridescent bright blue to dark red.  The Cassowary's body is covered by shiny black plumes that grow from three to fourteen inches long.  Also there are five or six stiff quill like feather stems growing our from each  undeveloped wing.

Bright orange or red colored wattles hang from the birds throat, whereas the Australian Cassowary has two wattles, the Northern Cassowary has is a single wattle and the dwarf Cassowary has none at all.

The Female Cassowary lays three to eight large eggs that are a deep turquoise color.  These eggs are quite large, measuring from three to five and a half inches in diameter.  It is only Ostrich and Emu eggs that are larger, which are the largest eggs in the world.

When the eggs have been laid, it is strange in that it is the male that incubates them and even rears the brown striped chicks whilst aggressively defending them at all times.

The Cassowary is not very favorable with Zoo Keepers who have to keep a respectful distance from them due to the amount of serious injuries that Cassowaries have inflicted on them. This may suggest that even though they are reputed to be shy, they are quite territorial.

Below is an image of a Golden Necked Cassowary, It looks quite calm and inquisitive here but as in nature, any animal with bright colors are usually a very clear sign of " Keep away...I am either poisonous or dangerous "

Unfortunately due to the ever increasing policy of slashing down rain forests over the last few decades the Cassowary has lost at lot of its natural habitat and is suffering as a result.  Mission Beach in Queensland, Australia for example has lost over fifty percent of its rain forests due to rain forest clearing and slash and burn policies in the past decade.

The dark green area shown in the map below, indicates about how much of the rainforest is actually left in Queensland..and there's not a lot left of it!

This cause and effect forces the Cassowary further and further into populated areas where these rare, exotic and indeed dangerous bird's can be seen scavenging for food out of bins and from picnic areas where people throw hamburgers, potato chips and bits of chocolate to them.  This of course can make the birds ill and even kill them, as their metabolisms and digestive systems are not accustomed to eating  junk  food.

Below an inquisitive Cassowary ventures into a ladies (Jan Shang) back yard in Queensland,  Australia, it is probably on the look for food as they are getting braver and braver in populated areas.  Don't worry madam, he probably just wants to help you hang up the washing!

Whereas once these birds were hardly seen, they are now becoming a common sight in many suburbs, lead on by the search for food that was once readily available in their rain forest environment.  It is a pathetic example of how mans greed for ever more land, resources and real estate is drastically effecting nature.

The birds lifestyle is being changed for the worse and as this continues, the Cassowary is fast becoming an endangered species.  They are now becoming a rare breed and many of them are also killed by car's and trucks on the freeways, whilst venturing into populated areas for food.

It is reported that the biggest threat to the Cassowary population are speeding motorists.  Drivers are constantly warned about the sudden appearance of Cassowaries that can get frightened or confused by the sight of cars and tend to stand their ground rather than run away, the consequence is another dead and or dying Cassowary, as seen in the sad image below.

Some have also been shot but thankfully shooting them has been made illegal in Australia. It is estimated that only fifteen hundred to three thousand Cassowaries are left in existence in Australia including around forty in captivity, and maybe the same figure in New Guinea.

Their numbers are getting fewer and fewer and animal welfare groups should take their plight into deeper consideration. A more comprehensive campaign for motorist awareness should also be employed, as previously stated, cars are the biggest killers of Cassowaries.

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Page created November 2nd 2008.     Updated December 16th 2012.