Cassowaries are lovingly known as the guardians of the rainforest because they disperse seeds throughout the forest, keeping more than 150 types of native plants and trees alive.
But what exactly is a cassowary?
These magnificent birds boast rich black plumage and are part of the same bird family as the emu, ostrich, and Kiwi. Growing up to 1.8 metres tall, they are impressive and beautiful – but can also be dangerous if you spot them around breeding season as they are very protective over their young.
You can find cassowaries in the lush canopies of the Daintree Rainforest in the tropical region of Queensland. Their dark plumage means they blend in well with the shadows of the forest. For the most part, cassowaries live in solitude, only coming together during the mating season. Their home ranges can be anywhere between 75 and 80 hectares big (sometimes more) depending on what fruit and other foods are available with that proximity.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you might just be lucky enough to see one of these incredible creatures in the wild.
The Feeding Habits of the Cassowary
Cassowaries are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. They predominantly feed on common fruits that have fallen to the forest floor, as well as a variety of grasses, seeds, insects, and other invertebrates.
The Unique Breeding Habits of the Cassowary
Cassowaries have a unique breeding system. They tend to mate between June and October, where both males and females initiate courtship. The female then lays her eggs on the forest floor – usually about four at a time – before the male sits on them for 50 days and incubates them. Once the chicks have hatched, the male cassowary looks after them until they are 16 months old. At that point they are ready to move out on the own and pick up a life of solitude just like their parents.
How to Spot a Cassowary
It’s unlikely you’ll miss a cassowary if you come across one in the forest. As well as coarse black feathers on their torso, they have an eye-catching metallic blue neck and head with red markings. On top, they have a pointy, prehistoric-looking feather that makes them even taller.
Many visitors to Australia venture to the Daintree Rainforest especially to see these elusive, native creatures. If you do get the chance to spot one, remember to take lots of photos before it melts back into the shadowy forest undergrowth.