Birds of the World

Casuariidae : Cassowaries & Emu

Southern Cassowary

Casuarius casuarius

Queensland, Australia - September 2014

The rainforests of northern Queensland are home to one of the most iconic, and elusive birds of Australia: the Southern Cassowary. Adult birds can be as tall as 1.75m (6ft) and females can weigh as much as 58kg (128lbs). The aggresive parental instincts of the males who reputedly have the potential to be able to disembowel a man with a single kick, has gained them a reputation as being potentially lethal animals. However, if you exhibit a little bit of common sense there is in reality little danger and although the birds may approach very close at times, they will generally either ignore you or exhibit nothing more than mild curiosity in your presence before disappearing silently back into the forest.

If you unlucky enough to encounter an aggresive male, the important thing is to remember to stay still. Running away or making any sudden movements will greatly increase the chance of you being attacked. If the aggressive behaviour persists, raise your arms and hold any long object that is to hand above your head to make yourself look as tall as possible. By presenting a profile that is taller than the attacking bird and standing your ground, it will usually back off.

juvenile - Queensland, Australia - September 2014

As with most ratites, Cassowary parental duties are performed entirely by the male with the female usually departing to search for another male soon after laying her eggs.