Cassowary

Last updated: June 1, 2021
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Can jump 5 feet in the air from a standing position!



Cassowary Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Casuariiformes
Family
Casuariidae
Genus
Casuarius

Cassowary Conservation Status

Cassowary Locations

Cassowary Locations

Cassowary Facts

Main Prey
Insects, Grass, Fungi
Fun Fact
Can jump 5 feet in the air from a standing position!
Distinctive Feature
Sharp claws and horn-like crest
Wingspan
Wings are tiny
Incubation Period
49 to 52 days
Habitat
Wet tropical forests
Predators
Dingo, Crocodile, Humans
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Solitary
Type
Bird
Average Clutch Size
5
Slogan
Can reach speeds of 30mph!
Nesting Location
The ground
Age of Molting
9 months

Cassowary Physical Characteristics

Colour
  • Yellow
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Tan
Skin Type
Feathers
Top Speed
31 mph
Lifespan
40 - 60 years
Weight
25kg - 58.5kg (55lbs - 129lbs)
Height
1.5m - 2m (59in - 79in)

Cassowary Images

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The cassowary is a type of ratite, which is a long-legged, usually large, flightless bird that’s a member of the Palaeognathae infraclass.

Its wings are nearly vestigial and only have a few quills. The feathers of the cassowary are coarse, and some have filaments that resemble hairs. Because of this, the cassowary was hunted and is raised for its feathers. Females are bigger than males, and the bright colors of their heads and necks are more vivid. Even more striking is the knifelike claw on the inner toe of each foot. The claws of this mostly fruit-eating bird are at least as formidable as the talons of the most powerful bird of prey.

4 Amazing Cassowary Facts!

  • The male bird raises the chicks, and he is especially dangerous in parent mode. He won’t hesitate to use his claws on predators and other threats.
  • The female mates with two or three males in a season. She lays her eggs in their nest after mating, then moves on.
  • Biologists once believed cassowaries used the hard casques on top of their heads to push through the undergrowth in the rain forest, but now they’re not so sure what the casque is for.
  • The bird has a good repertoire of vocalizations, including booms, hisses, rumbles, and roars.

Where To Find Cassowary

These birds are found in New Guinea, the northeastern part of Australia, and the Aru Islands which lie between New Guinea and Australia. Though they are large birds, they are secretive and hard to find in the tropical rainforests. They are known to live in the Paluma Range National Park, the McIlwraith Range National Park, and the Jardine River National Park in Australia. Fortunately, there are a number of zoos that exhibit cassowaries. Among them are:

Cassowary Nests

The bird’s nest is constructed by the male upon fallen leaves on the ground. It is shallow but sometimes lined with leaves or grass. After the female lays her eggs in the nest, the male chases her away.

Cassowary Scientific name

There are three species. Their classifications are:

  • The southern or double-wattled cassowary, Casuarius casuarius. Casuarius is from the Malay word kasuari, which is a word for the bird. The classification Casuarius casuiarius makes the southern cassowary the type species for the bird. All the other species of cassowary are compared with it.
  • The northern or single-wattled cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus. The epithet of this classification refers to the fact that it has only one wattle as compared to the southern cassowary’s two.
  • The dwarf or Bennett’s cassowary, Casuarius bennetti. The epithet for this bird honors the scientist George Bennett, who examined the bird and realized it was a new species of cassowary.

There was a fourth species, the pygmy cassowary, Casuarius lydekkeri, but it is extinct. There are no subspecies of the extant birds.


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Cassowary Size, Physical Features & Behavior

The southern cassowary is the largest of these birds and the third largest bird in the world after its cousin the emu and the ostrich. Its physical features are a body that is between 40 to 72 inches in length, 75 inches in height, and can weigh 187 pounds. Its head is topped with a horny casque that grows to between 5 and 7 inches tall and grows with the bird. It is possible to estimate the age of a grown bird by the size of its casque.

The bird has a bright blue head and a red neck that bears two red wattles. Each long, scaly leg ends in a three-toed foot whose inner toe bears that lethal claw, which can be 4.7 inches long. These birds live in New Guinea, which includes Papua New Guinea and Indonesia and the Aru Islands and Seram, an island that is part of Indonesia. Its population is over 2500 birds and is declining.

The southern cassowary is shy and solitary and will chase other cassowaries away except during the mating season. It eats fruit that has fallen to the ground and is capable of eating fruit that will poison other animals. The bird will also eat mushrooms and other fungi and small vertebrates like lizards. Despite that famous claw, it is not used to grab prey the way raptors use their talons.

Though it is true that these birds will attack humans, they seem to only do so when they’re provoked, frightened, defending eggs or chicks, or under attack themselves. Some cassowaries associate humans with food and will simply jump at a human in expectation of a meal.

The northern cassowary is known for its orange-gold or red neck and single wattle. It is built along the same lines as the southern cassowary, but is a bit smaller in height and lighter in weight with the females weighing about 128 pounds. It is only found in northern New Guinea’s coastal swamplands and lowland rainforests. Populations are also found on the islands of Waigeo, Batanta, Yapen, and Salawati. There are an estimated 2500 to 10,000 of these birds, but like the southern cassowary, their population is declining.

Like the southern cassowary, the northern cassowary eats fruit and small animals that it can handle. It will also eat carrion, and babies eat the feces of their father and siblings. Indeed, grown birds are known to eat their own feces if they still have undigested fruit.

As its name suggests, the dwarf cassowary is the smallest species, but it is not small. Physical features include a body that’s 3 to 5 feet long and 39 to 53 inches in height. It weighs between 39 and 57 pounds. Its triangular casque is smaller than those of the northern and southern cassowaries in proportion to its body. It has a bright blue and red neck and pink cheeks. This cassowary is found in New Guinea, Yapen Island, and New Britain in higher elevations than the northern or southern cassowaries. The population of the bird is unknown, but like the northern and southern cassowaries, its conservation status is least concern.

Southern Cassowary walking along the beach.
Southern Cassowary walking along the beach.

Cassowary Diet

These birds eat fruits, berries, fungi, and other plant materials. They can eat otherwise toxic plants because food goes through their digestive system very quickly. They’ll also eat small reptiles and amphibians, rats and mice, snails and insects.

Cassowary Predators and Threats

The biggest threat to these birds is the human. Humans kill them for their meat and their feathers and inadvertently kill them on the highways. Their chicks, which drop at a sign of danger, are eaten by dogs and pigs. Pigs also eat their eggs, and the cassowary’s habitat has been fragmented and destroyed by logging and development. Other things that threaten cassowaries are diseases and natural disasters such as typhoons.

Cassowary Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The breeding season for cassowaries occurs in winter and spring. Males will claim a territory, build a nest, and court a female by vocalizing and inflating his throat and dancing while she watches. If she accepts him and doesn’t drive him off, she’ll sit on the ground, and they’ll mate. She will then lay four to six green eggs in his nest. When she’s done, he’ll chase her off and incubate the eggs himself for about 47 to 56 days. In the meantime, the female will find another male. She’ll lay as many as 20 eggs before she’s through.

Baby cassowaries stay with their fathers for nine months or until their first molt, though they will be three years old before they have grown-up plumage. Some chicks stay with their fathers for as long as 18 months. The baby cassowaries are covered with brown down with black streaks. The father becomes very aggressive if he feels the chicks are under threat from predators.

Female cassowaries are sexually mature when they are two, and the males are mature when they are three. After that, they are able to reproduce for decades. Females can breed until they’re about 40, and males until they’re about 35. The oldest cassowary known lived to be at least 61 years old.

Cassowary Population

Scientists aren’t completely sure how many cassowaries are in the wild, but the status of all species is of least concern. There are 2500 southern cassowaries and up to 10,000 northern cassowaries, and the populations of all three species is declining.

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Cassowary FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Cassowaries herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Cassowaries are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do Cassowaries belong to?

Cassowaries belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What phylum to Cassowaries belong to?

Cassowaries belong to the phylum Chordata.

What family do Cassowaries belong to?

Cassowaries belong to the family Casuariidae.

What order do Cassowaries belong to?

Cassowaries belong to the order Casuariiformes.

What genus do Cassowaries belong to?

Cassowaries belong to the genus Casuarius.

What type of covering do Cassowaries have?

Cassowaries are covered in feathers.

In what type of habitat do Cassowaries live?

Cassowaries live in wet tropical forests.

What is the main prey for Cassowaries?

Cassowaries eat insects, grass, and fungi.

What are some predators of Cassowaries?

Predators of Cassowaries include dingos, crocodiles, and humans.

What are some distinguishing features of Cassowaries?

Cassowaries have sharp claws and horn-like crests.

How many eggs do Cassowaries lay?

A cassowary lays between four to six green eggs. The eggs are bright green at first, then fade.

What is an interesting fact about Cassowaries?

Cassowaries can reach speeds of 30mph!

What is the scientific name for the Cassowary?

The scientific name for the Cassowary is Casuarius.

What is the lifespan of a Cassowary?

Cassowaries can live for 40 to 60 years.

What is the Cassowary's wingspan?

The Cassowary has a wingspan of 1.5m to 2m (59in to 79in).

How fast is a Cassowary?

A Cassowary can travel at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour.

Does Cassowary migrate?

Cassowaries don’t migrate.

How fast does cassowary fly?

A cassowary doesn’t fly, but it can run 31 miles an hour, and jump 5 feet in the air.

When do cassowary leave the nest?

Cassowary chicks leave the nest very soon after they hatch because they are precocial, but their father takes care of them for at least nine months.

Why is the cassowary so dangerous?

The cassowary is dangerous because, though it lacks talons like other birds, each foot has a clawl ike a dagger, and if the bird is threatened it may attack. Even if it doesn’t use the claws, a bird that weighs as much as a grown-up human can cause damage if it jumps on you, and its kick is powerful enough to break bones.

Can a cassowary kill you?

Unfortunately, cassowaries have been known to kill people.

Is a cassowary a dinosaur?

Being a bird, a cassowary can be thought of as a type of modern dinosaur.

What to do if you see a cassowary?

If you see a cassowary and are afraid it’s going to attack, back away slowly, and put something between you and the bird, such as a tree or a backpack.

How to say Cassowary in ...
Czech
Kasuár přilbový
German
Helmkasuar
English
Southern Cassowary
Spanish
Casuarius casuarius
Finnish
Kypäräkasuaari
French
Casoar à casque
Hungarian
Sisakos kazuár
Indonesian
Kasuari Gelambir-ganda
Italian
Casuarius casuarius
Japanese
ヒクイドリ
Latin
Casuarius casuarius
Dutch
Helmkasuaris
Polish
Kazuar hełmiasty
Sources
  1. Nature, Available here: https://www.nature.com/news/1999/991223/full/news992123-2.html
  2. Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science, Available here: https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/wildlife/threatened-species/featured-threatened-species-projects/cassowary
  3. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassowary
  4. Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Casuariidae/

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