The cassowary is a large species of flightless bird that is found natively in the forests of Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands. The cassowary is closely related to other large flightless birds, including emus and ostriches, and is the third tallest and second heaviest bird in the world behind these two.
The cassowary inhabits a dense tropical forest in New Guinea and surrounding islands and parts of northeastern Australia. There are three species of cassowary which are the southern cassowary or double-chin cassowary, found in southern New Guinea, northeastern Australia, and the Aru Islands, the dwarf cassowary, or the Bennett cassowary, found in New Guinea, New Britain, and Yapen. and the northern cassowary or single-chin cassowary, found in northern and western New Guinea and Yapen.
The cassowary has adapted well to a peaceful life deep in the forest, and as a result, humans rarely see it when trying to detect it. The cassowary cannot fly and has therefore developed a need to run incredibly fast, as these large birds can run through the jungle at speeds of over 30 mph. The cassowary also has large, sharp claws that help the cassowary defend itself from danger.
The cassowary’s most distinctive features are its large body size and brightly colored feathers (females are larger and more colorful than their male counterparts) and the large, fluffy crest protruding from the top of the cassowary’s head, which can grow at 18 cm in height. Although not much is known about the purpose of these crests, the cassowary crest is believed to be used to assert sexual dominance, to settle disputes, and it also helps this bird when traversing dense undergrowth.
The cassowary is an omnivorous bird and therefore eats a wide variety of plants and animals to get all the nutrients it needs to survive. Cassowaries feed primarily on fruits that have fallen to the ground from trees, along with leaves, grasses, seeds, insects, spiders, and other invertebrates.
The cassowary has adapted to a life without the need to fly because, historically, the cassowary had no predators within its natural environment and therefore did not need to flee. However, with human settlements can predators mammals such as dogs, foxes, and cats that mainly destroy the vulnerable nests of the cassowary, eating its eggs.
The cassowary breeding season is believed to run from May to June when the female lays up to 8 large, dark eggs in a nest on the ground made of litter. However, the female cassowary leaves her eggs to be incubated by the male, who fiercely protects her future young from predators for up to 50 days, when the cassowary chicks hatch.
Today, mainly due to deforestation and thus habitat loss and the introduction of predators to native cassowary islands, all three cassowary species are endangered in the wild and are classified as vulnerable animals.