Southern cassowary

Cassowaries at Chester Zoo

When making your way through the misty land of Papua make sure you keep a lookout for the elusive Southern cassowary. You may hear these birds before you spot them. Listen out for a deep booming sound – a noise that sounds similar to the rumble of thunder.

If you don’t see these two incredible looking birds at first glance, keep a look out for any movement between the trees and plants for a flash of blue. Take a look closer to the ground to see if you can spot their strong legs and sharp claws.

It’s these muscular legs and powerful feet that have given them the reputation of being one of the most dangerous birds in the world, as they can kick out when threatened and use their dagger-like claws which can sometimes have a deadly result.

If you do catch a glimpse of this prehistoric looking bird you will see they have a helmet like feature on the top of their head. Cassowary comes from a Papuan word meaning ‘horned head’. They run with their heads down, this bony feature comes in handy to help them charge through thick forests.

Their large legs also enable them to run fast which is essential for the females as they need to be pretty speedy in order to chase the males for courtship. The females don’t hang around either, once they’ve laid their eggs they abandon the nest to go on the hunt for a new partner – leaving the male to raise their chicks.

Fast facts

  • They can run up to speeds of 31mph
  • They can live up to 30-40years
  • They are the world’s second heaviest bird – after the ostrich
  • And the world’s third tallest bird – after the ostrich and emu
  • They can eat some fruits that are toxic to other animals
  • Cassowary’s have knife-like claws that males use to fight other males
  • The cassowary’s only natural predator is man and his hunting dogs