What do they look like? The Southern Cassowary is the largest bird found in Australia standing up to 2 metres in height. With a large robust dark feathered body and bright bluish/purple head and neck and bright red wattle this animal is easily recognizable. They have a horny helmet or casque on their head which is used for communication between individuals, enabling them to transmit very low frequency sound.
Where do they live? Cassowaries inhabit the tropical north of Australia and PNG. There are three isolated populations surviving between Cape York and Townsville. Southern Cassowaries are exclusively a rainforest dweller.
What do they eat? Cassowaries predominantly feed upon fruits which have fallen on the ground. They are not fussy eaters however and will eat mostly anything that they find including fungi, large insects and small dead animals such as birds and rodents.
Behaviour: Cassowaries are solitary apart from the breeding season. Females are the dominant of the species. They are considered an aggressive species particularly when protecting their young. They have a long sharp nail up to 12 cm long on their inner toe which can be used in combat.
Reproduction: During the breeding season females become tolerant of males and will eventually choose a male to pair with. During the breeding season of June through to October each female will lay up to 3 clutches of eggs. Once the female has deposited her 3-6 eggs she no longer has anything to do with them. The male incubates the eggs for almost 2 months and will rear the chicks.
Threats: Habitat clearing and loss of wildlife corridors has reduced and separated the population making it vulnerable to extinction. Many Cassowaries are killed each year crossing roads and domestic dogs regularly harm and kill young birds. Fragmented populations are threatened by disease.
Conservation Status: Environment Australia and the Queensland Environmental Protection Authority both list this species as critically endangered. It is estimated that there are as few as 1400 individuals in the wild.