A Tale of Two Cassowaries

Southern Cassowary

Last March a new juvenile cassowary appeared in our forest. Judging by the size of his casque and wattles and the fact that there were still some brown feathers visible on the back, we tentatively assumed it was a 3 year old male. He had unusually long, light-coloured “fingernails”: the quills sticking out from the rudimentary wings.

Distinguishing features of cassowaries are mainly the casque, which might be straight, leaning to one side or the other, big or small (although in a young bird it would most likely keep growing for a few years), and the wattles, which can be short, long, one longer than the other, or oddly shaped.

Southern Cassowary
Southern Cassowary

He came past our house and the cabin quite regularly, and when we noticed, that he didn’t have his long, golden quills anymore, but shorter, black ones, we assumed that he lost them while moulting.

 

Southern Cassowary
Mr March

To our surprise, he recently showed up with his quills as long and golden as before! Shortly thereafter, they were black and short again! TWO birds! Same size, very similar casques and wattles, but very different quills!

Southern Cassowary
Goldfinger
Southern Cassowary
Mr March
Southern Cassowary
Goldfinger
Southern Cassowary
Mr March

So, when trying to identify individual cassowaries, have a close look at their fingernail as well!

The wet season has arrived! March 2012

The wet season has finally arrived in Kuranda! We had more than 400mm of rain since Friday, our little creek is 1 metre higher than normally and the nearby Barron Falls are at their best since January 2007.
It will be some time before the cassowaries come visiting us again, their preferred creek crossing is 2 metres under water.
The red-necked crakes (Rallina tricolor) are enjoying the wet, being more active all over the forest and garden during daylight hours, so they are much easier to observe. Their 3 chicks, little black fluff-balls on long, skinny legs only 3 weeks ago, are now almost as big as the parents.
This yellow-spotted honeyeater (Meliphaga notata) found a dry spot for the night:

Common tree snake hatchling (Dendrelaphis punctulatus) in the rain:

Barron Falls on Monday, 19/03/2012:[

Visiting Cassowary, March 2012

February 2012

The resident cassowary with his 2 three months old chicks is visiting almost daily to feed on the many native fruits which are available at the moment. They particularly like the fruits of the native Black Palm (Normanby normanbia) , native Ginger (Alpinia coerulea) and the exotic Queen Palm (Syagrum romanzoffia).

This season’s chicks seem feistier than usual, they are already chasing the red-legged pademelons and our male brush-turkey, who has his mound just behind our pond.

The brush-turkey always acts very nervously when the cassowaries are here, torn between fight and flight.

I do not think that the cassowaries pose a threat to the brush-turkey’s brood, but the turkey has every reason to discourage the lace monitors (Varanus varius) from coming too close – they would dig out and eat the eggs.

He vehemently defends the area around his mound, chasing the goannas across the garden into the forest, throwing dirt and mulch at them and  the lizards mostly end up clinging to a tree out of the turkey’s reach.

This one lost the tip of its tail in an earlier incident:

cassowary chick chasing brush turkey: