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A photo of a Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)
Southern Cassowary

Southern Cassowary

Casuarius casuarius

The Southern Cassowary, known scientifically as Casuarius casuarius, is a majestic and formidable bird, the largest of its kind in Australia and the second heaviest in the world. This flightless bird is adorned with a striking black plumage, a vivid blue face, and a long neck draped in red. Atop its head sits a distinctive horn-like casque, adding to its prehistoric appearance.

Identification Tips

To identify the Southern Cassowary, look for its robust frame, black bristly feathers, and the two red wattles that cascade from its throat. The female is typically larger than the male, with a more prominent casque and brighter bare parts. Juveniles can be recognized by their brown striped plumage. The species' three-toed feet are equipped with a formidable claw, which can be up to 12 cm long on the inner toe.

Habitat

The Southern Cassowary favors the dense tropical rainforests but may also be found in adjacent savannah forests and mangrove stands. It thrives at elevations below 1,100 meters in Australia and 500 meters in New Guinea.

Distribution

This bird's range extends across Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and northeastern Australia. Its population is declining due to habitat loss and other human-related factors.

Behaviour

The Southern Cassowary is a solitary creature, foraging on the forest floor for fallen fruit, fungi, insects, and small vertebrates. It plays a crucial role in the ecosystem as a seed disperser, particularly for plants with large seeds.

Song & Calls

During the breeding season, the Southern Cassowary emits a deep, thunderous call. It also produces hissing and rumbling sounds, while the chicks communicate with high-pitched whistles and chirps.

Breeding

The male cassowary takes on the role of nest builder, incubator, and caregiver for the chicks. The nest is a simple structure on the ground, and the male incubates a clutch of three to four bright pea-green eggs.

Similar Species

The Southern Cassowary can be confused with its relatives, the Dwarf Cassowary and the Northern Cassowary. However, it is generally larger and has two wattles instead of one.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Southern Cassowary mainly consists of fruit, but it also includes a variety of other foods such as fungi, insects, and small vertebrates. It is known to safely consume some fruits that are toxic to other animals.

Conservation Status

The Southern Cassowary is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN but is considered Endangered in Australia under federal and Queensland state legislation. Threats include habitat loss, hunting, and vehicle strikes. Conservation efforts are underway, including habitat protection and recovery plans.

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