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Flightless Friday - Casuarius unappendiculatus Edition

This Flightless Friday is a switch from small and cute to big and terrifying!

The Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus) can be found, as its name implies, in northern New Guinea. It has slightly different coloring than the Dwarf Cassowary, and is sometimes called the golden-necked cassowary or the singled-wattled cassowary (the unappendiculatus part of the species name refers to the single wattle). They live in the tropical lowland rain forests, usually at elevations of under 1,600 feet (500 meters).


Northern Cassowaries has coarse black plumage, with expose skin on its head and neck that is colored blue and red, orange or yellow. It has a bony casque on the top of its head, and it has powerful legs with a long, 6-inch (15 cm) claw on the inner toes of each foot. This claw can be a deadly weapon when the Northern Cassowary kicks, and has caused human fatalities. Northern Cassowaries stand almost 6 feet tall (1.8 meters) and weigh approximately 130 pounds (58 kg). Females are slightly larger than males, but other than size there is no other visual way to determine the sex of a given bird.

The diet of the Northern Cassowary mostly consists of fruit. They are frugivores, and can eat hundreds of berries and other small fruit in a single day. They supplement their fruit intake by consuming protein - mostly insects and even small animals like rodents, birds, reptiles and amphibians. They will even scavenge carrion if they come across it. But the fruit is actually the most important part of their diet, because the birds are a crucial part of seeding the rain forest. Northern Cassowaries have no natural predators other than humans, but they are vulnerable to being hit by cars, falling into traps laid for other animals, and young birds can be hurt or killed by dogs and pigs.


Winter and early spring is when Northern Cassowaries become more tolerant of each other’s presence for mating purposes. Males approach females with a mating ritual, readying a nest and actually chasing off the female after she has laid her eggs (usually a clutch of four). He will attempt to mate with more females and entice them to lay their eggs in his nest, then incubate them for the next 50 days. The male is responsible for raising the chicks, who will stay with him for up to 18 months.


Northern Cassowaries are typically fearful, cautious and aggressive in the wild. Humans tend to kill them when they’re young, which is the most vulnerable time for them. The IUCN considers the Northern Cassowary to be a vulnerable species. They vocalize by emitting loud, booming calls, and the colors on their heads and necks become brighter and more enlarged when they are engaging in threat or mating displays.


Source for all images used in this post.

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