Rainforest Hideaway - Cape Tribulation bed and breakfast accommodation & sculpture trail in the Daintree rainforest of tropical north Queensland Australia

cape tribulation accommodation and sculpture trail
Bed and breakfast accommodation in Cape Tribulation
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cassowary

cassowary at Rainforest Hideaway B&B accommodation in Cape Tribulation , Daintree, North Queensland

One of Australia's most amazing birds is the cassowary, standing up to two metres tall, covered in coarse black double stranded feathers, and decorated with bright colors of orange and blue on its neck and head.
Due to a lot of rainforest having been cleared to make room for agriculture this elusive flightless bird is now highly endangered and lives only in the Wet Tropics area of North Queensland, another patch of remote rainforest high up on the Cape York peninsula, and in Papua New Guinea.

cassowary in cape tribulation cassowary in daintree national park
Cassowary chicks around Rainforest Hideaway in 2009

cassowaries

Cassowary juveniles visiting Rainforest Hideaway in 2010

The cassowary (Latin name Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) has been cruising around on this planet since before the super continent Gondwana broke up in to several continents, and several distant continents have birds related to the cassowary.
Cassowaries belong to a family of birds called ratites and are related to the Emu, the Ostrich, the Kiwi (though there is a big difference in size) and the South American Rhea - a less famous bird that resembles a small emu and runs around on the plains in Patagonia. Cassowaries are also related to the now extinct Moas of New Zealand and the also extinct Elephant Bird of Madagascar. In New Guinea there are two other species of cassowary too but in Australia the only species is the Southern Cassowary.

It must be mating season, cassowaries
do not hang out together very often!

This cassowary casually
cruises in for a visit

Cassowaries are frugivorous, fallen fruit and fruit on low branches is the bulk of their diet. They also eat fungi, insects, frogs, spiders, snakes and other small animals, even dead ones and roadkills. They live to about 40-50 years of age and are the second-largest bird in Australia and the third-largest remaining bird in the world (the ostrich and emu are larger).

Cassowaries grow to about 1.5 - 1.8 m in height, although the females are larger and can reach 2 m and they weigh about 60 kilograms, the heaviest recorded cassowary was 83kg. Cassowaries have a bony casque on their head that is used to help them through the dense rainforest vegetation, this is made of keratin, the same material as our nails and hair.
The casque is also used for headbutting and some people believe it is used to receive the very low frequency humming noise that they can make.

Personally, I have another theory on the casque; one day I saw the cassowary eating the fallen seeds of the black palm. The golfball size seeds were still dropping and I realized that since cassowaries eat fallen fruit they spend a good part of their life under trees that are still dropping seeds, the impact of a golfball like seed on the small head of the cassowary devastating, but the shape of the casque would make the seed reflect of the cassowary's head, from an engineering point of view the best way to reduce the impact.
And I have another theory; the cassowaries are a bunch of junkies, tripping off their heads like human LSD users, and most likely see pink elephants flying around the rainforest.
When you consider the fact that:
1. they daily eat many kilos of rainforest seeds that are poisonous to humans and filled with toxic and hallucinogenic substances and
2. they have a brain that is smaller than their eye
just imagine the effect of a 2 litre milkjug filled with hallucinogenic chemicals on a brain the size of an olive......

cassowary visiting the bed and breakfast cassowary outside the accommodation
Cassowary visiting Rainforest Hideaway

Usually cassowaries are very shy but when they feel threatened or want to protect their young they can lash out dangerously with their powerful legs and jump and kick with both legs at once. Their three-toed feet have sharp claws; the dagger-like middle claw is 12 cm long. Cassowaries are very capable of killing dogs by disemboweling them and have injured people, though only one death has been recorded, more on this on cassowary attacks. They can run up to 50 km/h and jump up to 1.5 m. They are also good swimmers.

They don't have much of a family life, they are solitary birds but females will cruise around the forest mating with several males during the breeding season from May to November. Courtship is initiated by the male when a female enters his territory. The smaller sized male must approach the larger female with caution because if she is not in the mood she is capable of seriously injuring him. The male begins courtship by circling around the female and making a low rumbling sound. When she has laid her eggs, three to eight, measuring about 90 by 140 mm and pale green-blue in color, in a shallow scrape in the ground in which the male has placed leaves and grass, she moves on again to repeat the process with another male. It is the male's duty to incubate the eggs for about fifty days and also to care for the chicks for another year or so. The chicks are striped until they are about 6-9 months old and become a glossy black colour when they are about 3 years old. By that time, the skin on the neck and head begins to turn color, and the casque begins to develop. Cassowaries are capable of breeding when they are three years old.

Cassowaries are vital to the survival of the rainforest, as many of the seeds are too large to be dispersed by any other means. The cassowary eats about 150 different rainforest seeds. Cassowaries swallow fruit whole and then excrete intact fruit seeds in large piles of dung which acts as a ready-made fertiliser, the dung helps the seed to grow. White-tailed rats, bush rats, melomys and musky rat-kangaroos sometimes feast on seeds in cassowary droppings. But most seeds survive to germinate. Usually, seeds are dropped within a kilometre of where they were eaten.

cassowary shit
Cassowary droppings.

The total population of cassowaries in Australia is estimated to be only around the 1500, they are endangered and declared a protected species.
The main problems for them are;

- loss of habitat through clearing of rainforest for residential settlement and agricultural expansion (nowadays everyone thinks the rainforest starts at the Daintree river, it used to start hundreds of kilometres further south before the introduction of sugarcane)
- fragmentation of habitat ( from roads, farms and subdivisions)
- vehicle traffic (road kills are the number one cause of adult cassowary deaths, especially around the Mission Beach area),
- dogs (which are especially aggressive to chicks and juveniles)
- feral pigs - they compete for food with cassowaries and chew the seeds so they will not be dispersed and germinated like when they pass through a cassowary, and pigs might even eat small cassowary chicks.

cape tribulation cassowary sign
This 'before and after' bit of artwork is situated along the road to Cape Tribulation.
You can buy this artwork on T-shirts and stubby coolers

What to do if you see a cassowary on the road;

1. DO NOT FEED THE CASSOWARY

2. Slow down but resist the temptation to stop, honk to scare the bird off so it goes back in to the forest.This is to prevent the bird becoming interested in cars and to reduce its risk of being hit or causing an accident in the future.

cassowary  at cape tribulation accommodation
Cassowary at Rainforest Hideaway B&B in Cape Tribulation
cassowaries on the road
Cassowary and chicks on the main road up to Cape Tribulation

 

daintree treefrog at cape tribulation
daintree rainforest tree frog
Recommended by: AmazingAustralia.com.au | Lonely Planet | Trip Advisor
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Rainforest Hideaway Cape Tribulation Accommodation & Sculpture Trail - 109R Camelot Close, Cape Tribulation 4873, Australia Ph: 07-40980108