Saturday, January 11, 2014
Creature Feature #85: Cassowary
The large, flightless Southern Cassowary makes her home in the rainforests of Northern Queensland, with her cousins, the Northern and Dwarf species, being found in New Guinea and surrounding islands. Although shorter than the emu, her build is stockier and she weighs about the same. She follows an omnivorous diet with a preference for fruit. Relatively shy in nature, she can be extremely dangerous if provoked: her middle claw measures 12 cm and she can deliver a powerful kick. Rumour has it that she can disembowl a dog with one blow. Most reported Cassowary attacks on people, however, consist of the bird chasing the human, and occured in instances where she was expecting to receive food (kids, don't feed cassowaries - it's bad for them and for you), or had been provoked.
The one recorded human fatality, in 1926, was the result of two boys trying to beat a Cassowary to death with clubs. One of the boys was mauled and later died.
However, I can report that it is very intimidating to be stalked by a bird almost as tall as you are, having been followed by one in the Daintree, Northern Queensland, as I went to fetch insect repellant from our car. I believe he was curious more than anything, but when you look into those bright round eyes behind that long beak, it is very, very easy to believe that birds evolved from the dinosaurs.