The double-wattled cassowary is native to New Guinea, northern Australia and some of the eastern island groups of Indonesia.
Double-wattled cassowaries inhabit rainforest and occasionally swampy forested areas, savanna forests, mangroves and fruit plantations.
- Adult cassowaries are five to six feet (1.5-1.8 m) tall.
- Males weigh 64-100 pounds (29-45 kg); females are larger weighing up to 128 pounds (58 kg).
- Their bodies are covered with glossy black feathers with the exception of the head and throat that are sparsely covered with coarse bright red and blue feathers.
- They have a helmet-like crest on top of their heads called a casque.
- They have brilliantly colored folds of skin called wattles hanging down from the neck.
- Their strong legs have three toes with sharp claws.
- The wings are extremely small and there are vestiges of primary flight feathers in the form of five or six long white spines.
What Does It Eat?
In the wild: The majority of the double-wattled cassowary diet consists of fruit that has fallen from trees or fruit on low-hanging branches. They also eat fungi, seeds, insects, snails and small vertebrates.
At the zoo: Fed primarily fruit and a ratite pellet diet.
What Eats It?
Feral pigs and dogs prey on the young.
Cassowaries are generally solitary birds except for mating pairs and males with young. They are rarely seen since they are shy and live in dense forests.
Cassowaries are not fully mature and capable of breeding until they are three to four years of age. Breeding occurs when food is most plentiful. The male initiates courtship when a female enters his territory. The smaller male must carefully approach the female because if she is not receptive she may become aggressive. After mating, the male makes a nest by lining a shallow hollow in the ground with leaves and grass. The female lays four to eight light green eggs in the well-camouflaged nest and then leaves to search for another male to mate with. The male incubates the eggs until they hatch after about 50 days. The newly hatched chicks are brown striped and are able to follow the male in search of food a few hours after hatching. The male stays with the chicks for about nine months protecting them from predators and teaching them how to find food before they go off to establish their own territories. During the first year, the chicks lose their striped markings and molt into light brown feathers. Over the next two years, they molt into the black adult plumage, develop the distinctive red and blue coloration on the head and neck and develop the casque and wattles. Because these birds are so secretive, their lifespan in the wild is uncertain but they have lived 20-40 years in captivity.