Habitat: Wet Tropics rainforest in tropical North Queensland, melaleuca swamps and mangrove forests

Distribution: Far North Queensland, Papua New Guinea, eastern Indonesia 

Lifespan: 12-40 years 

Conservation status: Wet Tropics population listed as endangered (Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992), internationally listed as vulnerable (IUCN

Main threats: Habitat loss, climate change 


Of the world's three cassowary species, the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii) is the only one found in Australia.

With its striking blue and purple head and neck, large crest, red wattles and glossy black plumage, this colourful bird is one of the most easily recognised icons of the Daintree Lowland Rainforest. 

They're also fairly easy to spot - at 2m tall and up to 76kg, the southern cassowary is Australia's heaviest flightless bird.

But you'll often hear the southern cassowary before you see it. It's vocal repertoire consists of a range of rumblings and grunts, with low rumbling calls often made in response to potential danger. 

Fun fact: Recent research suggests that a cassowary's crest - called a casque or helmet - may help it feel low vibrating sounds made by other cassowaries over long distance. Known as infrasound, this unusual ability to 'sense' sound is also used by elephants, and was used by some dinosaurs. 

Answered: Are Cassowaries actually living dinosaurs? (and more)


Southern cassowaries feed mostly on fallen fruits, but they are also omnivores and will eat anything from snails to fungi to small dead mammals.

They usually feed alone, and within their own territory. The meeting of two males can result in a standoff where both birds will rumble and fluff their feathers until one steps away. Males will always give ways to females however, as the female is dominant.

This is also true during the breeding season, which runs from June to October. The female cassowary selects a male to breed with, then lays a clutch of about four large green eggs. The male is then left in charge of incubation and chick-rearing duties.

When the chicks know where to find what they need, they leave (or are chased out) to find territories of their own.

Having a connected rainforest is crucial to the long-term survival of this species. You can help protect southern cassowary habitat in the Daintree. Find out how.






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