Mission Beach Home of the Cassowary
A trip to Mission Beach North Queensland would not be complete if you do not get to see an amazing Southern Cassowary. You will not see a Southern Cassowary anywhere else in Australia, which makes spotting one of the unusual birds that much more exciting. Closely resembling an Ostrich or an Emu, the Cassowary is a tall flightless bird that inhabits the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland with other species inhabiting Papua New Guinea and some of the eastern islands of Indonesia. With its very long legs, vivid blue face, large bump on its head, and inquisitive eyes the Southern Cassowary foraging in its native surroundings is a sight to behold.
The Southern Cassowary not only has a striking appearance, the bird can reach up to 40 kilometers an hour when it is running. While the bird has a thick heavy black plume with no tail, it can also swim. The Southern Cassowary uses its large dagger-shaped claws on each of its feet to protect itself when it feels threatened or when it is protecting its chicks.
While this bird is an Australian National treasure, unfortunately its numbers have been decreasing so much so that it is now listed on the highly endangered species list. Conservationists are tirelessly working to rebuild the Southern Cassowary population to avoid extinction but the main threats to the majestic animal are hard to combat. Commercial and housing development, domestic dogs, cars, and feral pigs all pose a threat to a Southern Cassowary’s life. Recently, there have been bitter battles between Southern Cassowary conservation groups and property developers who have their sights set on developing land that has been earmarked as a vital cassowary corridor.
These solitary birds only pair up for a brief period during mating season which is between late winter and early spring. The male Southern Cassowary builds a nest for a potential mate and makes a loud booming call to lure a female. One paired up, the male Southern Cassowary will incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. Normally during a breeding season, a Southern Cassowary pair will produce three or four offspring.
The Southern Cassowary’s diet consists of fallen fruit, vegetables, fungi, carrion, and small vertebrates. This simple diet plays an important role in the life of the surroundings as the Southern Cassowary spreads seeds throughout the rainforest. With certain types of seeds the digestive system of the Southern Cassowary plays a vital role in the germination process. It has been estimated that 130 to 150 species of plant depend almost entirely on the Cassowary to disperse their seeds and regenerate our rainforests.
Without Cassowaries in the wild we would have limited rainforest and the landscape would change entirely and that is why they are referred to as a keystone species that urgently needs to be protected to preserve the future of the rainforests and humans.
This stunning creature is truly one of the treasures of Mission Beach and Tropical North Queensland’s amazing rainforest. When you visit the rainforest make sure to look out for the bird as although they are large, they can easily blend into their tropical surroundings.
Just ensure you keep your distance and be aware that this endangered species is also an unpredictable and potentially dangerous animal, particularly when caring for chicks. If you do encounter a Cassowary in the rainforests of Mission Beach you never run as they can out run you. Without turning, retreat slowly and if the bird becomes aggressive, place a solid object such as a tree between yourself and the bird. If nothing else is available, hold an object in front of you and continue to back away slowly.
For your own safety, keep your distance and do not approach Cassowaries. Also never feed Cassowaries as they can get used to humans and become demanding, aggressive and dangerous. As with any animal the wrong diet can damage the health of Cassowaries and prevent them from performing their role as rainforest seed dispersers.
Unfortunately tame Cassowaries become vulnerable to dog attacks, traffic and unsympathetic humans.
How can you help to save the Cassowary at Mission Beach so that our children and our children’s children can still call Mission Beach the capital of Cassowaries? Look here and make a difference www.cassowaryconservation.asn.au
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