This huge bird is native to Australia and some tropical countries, and you better not make them angry as they have a reputation for lashing out!
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of cassowary facts, a dangerous bird that you don’t really want to come across any time soon unless it can’t get to you.
1. Cassowaries live in 3 different countries
The cassowary is a large bird that is native to the northeast of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. They also live on several islands in the region as well. These include East Nusa Tenggara and the Maluku Islands.
Whether or not these birds are actually native to these islands is unknown. It’s possible these birds were introduced on these islands by people trading young birds.
2. These are some of the biggest birds on the planet
The southern cassowary, the species that lives in Australia, is one of the biggest birds on the planet. It’s the third-tallest and also the second-heaviest bird in the world!
Only the emu and ostrich stand taller than the southern cassowary.
3. Female cassowaries are larger than males
One of the most remarkable cassowary facts is that the females are actually bigger than the males! They also tend to be more brightly colored than their male counterparts.
The cassowary can stand up to 1.5 to 1.8 meters (5 to 6 feet) tall on average, with some individuals reaching a height of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet)!
That’s a pretty massive bird, don’t you think?
This also means that they weigh nearly as much as a human being with an average weight of about 58.5 kilos (130 lbs).
4. They belong to a group with multiple similar birds
Cassowaries are part of a group of bird species referred to as “ratites.” These are all similar walking birds such as the emu, rhea, ostrich, and kiwi.
If you know how an ostrich looks, then it’s pretty easy to recognize a member of the ratite group.
5. Cassowaries were once confused with ostriches
When these birds were first described in the 18th century, it wasn’t quite clear to which genus they really belonged.
The famous Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus included the genus “Casuarius” in the sixth edition of his Systema Naturae in 1848 but left them out in a later edition because he thought they were part of the genus “Struthio,” to which the ostrich belongs.
French scientist Mathurin Jacques Brisson finally included the Casuarius in his book “Ornithologie,” published in 1760, officially marking their own genus.
6. There are 3 recognized species of cassowaries
In the genus Casuarius, there are 3 extant species and one extinct species of cassowaries:
- Southern cassowary – Casuarius casuarius – The biggest of the 3 species, native to northeastern Australia, southern New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.
- Dwarf cassowary – Casuarius bennetti – Smallest of the 3 species, native to New Guinea, New Britain, and Yapen.
- Northern cassowary – Casuarius unappendiculatus – A pretty big bird native to northern and western New Guinea, and Yapen.
The pygmy cassowary is an extinct species that was rather small and of which fossils have been found in New South Wales and Papua New Guinea.
7. Are cassowaries dinosaurs?
One of the most amazing cassowary facts is that they are actually descendants of a species that is believed to have lived in the supercontinent referred to as Gondwana.
DNA studies have shown that cassowaries are the closest descendants to the species living there about 180 million years ago, meaning they are the closest species of ratites to their prehistoric ancestors.
The dinosaur ratites seemed to have evolved into their modern counterparts around the time dinosaurs got extinct, 65 million years ago.
8. They have 3 toes and use their feet as weapons
Being running birds, one of their most prominent features is their feet. They have huge feet with 3 toes, and one of these toes has a very sharp nail that can grow up to 12.5 centimeters (5 inches) long!
What makes this weapon even scarier is the fact that they can run really fast and jump really high as well. Cassowaries can jump up to 2 meters (7 feet) high and plant this dagger-like nail into whatever gets in their way.
Do you understand now why we mentioned you never want to come across one of these? They are carrying 2 murder weapons at all times and aren’t afraid to use them!
9. Can cassowaries fly?
Their running and jumping ability is compensation for the fact that these birds are unable to fly. Yes, these are truly running birds!
They do have small wings though which indicates that their ancestors might have had the ability to fly, but nature decided otherwise.
10. They wear a permanent hat that grows over time
One of the most interesting cassowary facts is that they have a weird type of hat on their heads that is referred to as a “casque.” It’s unclear what its purpose really is, except for the fact that we know it grows as they get older and can grow up to 18 centimeters (7 inches).
A lot of theories are going around, ranging from serving a purpose as some sort of helmet as protection from attacks, to being a secondary sexual characteristic.
Perhaps the most interesting theory as proposed by biologist Andrew Mack who believes that this casque amplifies deep sounds, which is especially useful during mating season when mating calls are being made.
11. Cassowaries prefer to mind their own business
These birds are not social at all and prefer to simply roam around by themselves. The only time they really mingle is during mating season and sometimes if food is scarce.
Otherwise, they simply like to mind their own business and protect the little territory they set out for themselves (yes they are territorial as well).
These are some of the shyest animals on the planet!
12. The male cassowary is the one taking care of the chicks
Another one of those fascinating cassowary facts is that the male is burdened with a lot of tasks in the household. He not only has to prepare the nest so the female can lay eggs, but he also has to incubate them for about 50 days.
When the chicks come out, he has to take care of them for up to 9 months as well while the female just roams around, totally uninterested in her offspring.
That’s the life of the male cassowary!
13. What do cassowaries eat?
Cassowaries are known to be frugivorous, which means their favorite food is fruits, but if needed, they will also eat other types of food, which basically makes them omnivores.
Let’s just say that they really aren’t that picky when it comes to their food, because they also eat flowers, fungi, snails, insects, frogs, birds, fish, rats, mice, and even carrion!
And get this, they also reportedly eat their own poop and that of their counterparts!
14. These birds are important animals for their environment
These birds prefer to live deep in the tropical rainforests. Because they eat a lot of fruits, these birds are extremely important for the jungles they live in.
They are considered to be a keystone species because they spread the seeds of the fruits they eat across the jungle floor via their excrements.
Well, that’s if they don’t eat it first, though!
15. Cassowaries are considered to be endangered in Australia
The southern cassowary, which lives in Queensland in Australia, is considered to be an endangered species. Only about 20 to 25 percent of their natural habitat in the northeast of Australia remains, so habitat loss and fragmentation are the main reasons why these birds face extinction.
Another danger for cassowaries is cars as these birds can suddenly jump onto the road and get killed on the spot. There are even road signs marking the threat for these birds all around Queensland.
If all these dangers aren’t enough, then there’s also the fear of natural calamities such as cyclones, which can seriously threaten the existence of these birds in Australia without human intervention.
Let’s just hope these dinosaur birds can avoid extinction, as these are pretty fascinating creatures!
16. Cassowaries must be some of the worst pets ever
Did you know that cassowaries are referred to as the “world’s most dangerous bird?”
There’s a good reason because keeping them as a pet simply isn’t a good idea. These creatures can’t be tamed, even if you raise them as chicks.
On April 12, 2019, one man who was breeding cassowaries in Florida found out exactly how dangerous they can be as he was killed by a cassowary after falling on the floor.
Want to keep a bird as a pet? Try a parrot, or even a keel-billed toucan, not a cassowary!
17. Cassowaries have a pretty long lifespan
So how long do cassowaries live? In the wild, it’s pretty hard to find out as it isn’t easy to trace these creatures. In captivity though, we have a great view of just how long these birds can live.
A cassowary in a zoo can live up to 40 years, while in the wild they can live up to 60 years!
The average lifespan of the cassowary is set at 26 years!