Cassowary

This very shy bird is from the rain forests of New Guinea and Northern Australia. The cassowary is a large, stocky bird that cannot fly. Short, heavy legs covered with horny plates and broad, very powerful feet support its large body. It has three toes with the inner toe having a very strong and sharp claw which can slice and tear. While these birds are timid, they can be very dangerous if cornered.

The feathers of the cassowary are a glossy black with a blue reflection. Its head is a beautiful blue with a red wattle. The head has a horny growth like a helmet called a casque. It is thought that this helmet is used like a shovel to rake through the leaves to find fallen fruit and possibly to protect its head as it runs through the rainforest. Some indigenous Papuans have observed it using the casque to knock fruit from small trees by ramming the trunks with it.

The cassowary can run up to 31 mph (50 km/h).

The female cassowary is larger than the male. They lead solitary lives except in the breeding season. The female lays 3 to 4 pea-green eggs on the ground which the male will incubate for 55 days. When the eggs hatch, the chicks are striped. Consequently, the male is the parent who will care for the chicks for about nine months.

Their diet consists mainly of fruit. They have been known to swallow fruit such as bananas whole.

The only known enemies of the cassowary are man, dogs, and vehicles.

Cassowary

Casuariformes • Casuaridae
Casuarius casuarius

Height: 3.3 feet (1 m)
Weight: 190 pounds (85 kg)
Length: 5.3 feet (1.6 m)
Special Design Feature: The cassowary has a horny helmet known as a casque that may serve to protect its head as it runs through thick vegetation.
Did You Know? The nail of the inner toe of the cassowary can grow to be over 4 inches (10 cm) long and is very sharp.