25th of July 2014 – Species Spotlight Double Wattled Cassowary

This week we need a big spotlight as we feature one of the worlds largest birds (and also most dangerous)

Double Wattled Cassowary

Casuarius casuarius

Cassowary (21)

Also known as the Southern Cassowary, this is one of the worlds biggest birds weighing in at up to 85kg (only the Ostrich is heavier) & standing 1.9 metres (thirs only to the Ostrich & Emu).  Cassowaries are members of the ratite family which include Emu, Ostrich, Rhea & Kiwi and there are 3 species of Cassowary.  Double Wattled Cassowary are native to Australia & New Guinea where they are listed as vulnerable as numbers are dropping, mainly due to deforestation and incidents of car strikes.

They inhabit areas of tropical rainforest where they will forage on the ground for food, of which a wide range is taken.  Fallen fruits and seeds are eaten, along with fungi, insects and other small animals.  Occasionally they are seen to eat their own droppings, probably because they have a poor digestive system.

Appearance wise if you have not seen our birds, think Velociraptor crossed with a turkey and your are not far wrong!.  The birds are covered in black feathers, which are designed to keep the birds cool and deflect any undergrowth as they move at speed through the rainforest.  Cassowaries are flightless so don’t possess long flight feathers.  The face is blue and red which, coupled withtwo wattles on the neck, may be used for communication and display.  On top of the head is a large casque, or helmet.  This is a great aid again when moving through the forest.  Long legs show that they can move at speed and dagger like claws on each toe are great defence.  Females are larger.

Cassowary (29)

Cassowaries tend to be solitary, coming together only to breed. Males build the nest and will try to impress the females with low grunts and by circling her, a risky business as she could seriously injure him if not keen on his advances.  3 or 4 greeny blue eggs are laid and the male will incubate alone, the female moving away to find other mates. Eggs are incubated for 60 days and the chicks hatch coloured brown with tan stripes.  They will stay with dad for 9-16 months as he leads them to food.

Cassowary (11)

We currently house a young pair of cassowaries who are kept separatly this year before we try to breed them next year.  They are housed in large enclosures with sheds so we can shut them in overnight during the cold winters.  They are the only birds on site that have their own risk assessment as they are so dangerous.  We feed them on a range of fruit and veg, plus a ratite pellet and the occasional day old chick

Cassowary (25)

 

In park news this week…

 

It has been fairly quiet, with a few birds moved around.  A Blacksmith Plover female has moved to an empty aviary in the finch block.  The male Grey Peacock Pheasant has moved into the aviary opposite the penguins and the Masked Plover has gone back into the Desert House.

Humboldts Hagrid, Molly and Arthur are all fattening up for their moult

We had a slight scare with the electric going off and the penguin egg incubator losing some temperature but hasty actions meant that everything should be OK (still too early to tell if fertile)

The Golden conures may be nesting

 

We have been interviewing for a full time keeper this week

New play area equipment was installed

 

Wildlife wise lots of butterflies and moths this week, with the Marbled White seen again along with a Poplar Hawkmoth

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Also had this moth if anyone has any idea what it is??

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Thanks for reading

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