2001-Present > Bird Tales: Australia
The male Southern Cassowary stands six feet tall, from his three toes armed with sharp claws to the top of his horny helmet, worth noting if he is protecting his chicks. Yes, he is the parent who shepherds those brown-striped, downy bundles of joy through the tropical forest. He is so aggressive during the nine months the chicks are in his care that visitors to Cassowary House B&B in Queensland are advised to stay in their ground-level rooms should his the family be nearby. Even if his featherless blue head and neck and orange wattles invite closer inspection or his soft looking feathers make your hand itch to pet him, you must remember that his kick is likened to that of Bruce Lee. But then Bruce didn’t have a five-inch toenail behind his punch that can easily disembowel whatever threatens, and it is Mr. Cassowary’s perception of the threat that counts here, so good intentions are useless.
We were fortunate that it was the docile female visiting as we breakfasted on the balcony of the B&B in the Atherton Tablelands. Her maternal instincts terminate when the eggs are laid. She leaves it to the male to sit on them for two months and then raise the chicks for another nine. This leaves him one month before the next brood arrives. He could relax if he did not have to chase away his youngest offspring to find their own territory and stop freeloading off his fruit patch.
The female looked up into our faces peering over the second story balcony, stretching to her full six feet, interested but not alarmed. Curiosity satisfied, she gently pecked at the fruit rinds and cores tossed down from our breakfast. She was so comfortable with us that after long looks in our direction, she settled in by collapsing her gangly legs and resting on the ground for a while, ignoring our noise and movement as we jostled for the perfect picture.