It has been awhile since we have completed a fact about one of our flying friends so I am dedicating Wild Fact #827 to the Double Wattled Cassowary. I guess a post about our “flying” friends will have to wait as the Cassowary is a large flightless bird that is native to the rainforest’s of New Guinea and some of the Australian islands. What can I say? It is just one more reason to visit the rainforest’s of New Guinea and Australia.
The double wattled cassowary is one of the largest birds in the world. Only the ostrich and emu are larger than this funny looking bird. You have probably noticed that the feathers contrast greatly with the brightly coloured head and throat. The coarse, black feathers are adapted to handling the thick brush of the rainforest. It acts as a thick coat to protect the bird from being punctured while running full tilt through the bush.
Another adaptation that some researchers figure help the cassowary run through the bush is that funny looking thing on the top of their head, called a “casque”. This is in fact a spongy foam-like substance covered with a keratinous (remember that keratin is the same thing your fingernails are made of) material. This spongy horn has actually caused some debate amongst scientists. Really, what else do they have to do but argue with each other. Some researchers believe this horn is for pushing the underbrush away as this flightless bird runs with its head down. Other possible uses for this “horn” include a weapon for dominance battles, a tool for moving leaf litter while foraging or as an attractant for mating. The final guess is that the cassowary uses this to amplify their call. You see this unique bird makes the lowest bird call known and is barely within human hearing range. It is possible that this appendage acts as an amplifier for those low sounds. We may never know exactly what they use this for but it sure gives this bird a very distinctive look. I don’t know many animals that can pull off the Mohawk but I think the Double Wattled Cassowary is one of the few that can do it.
Well I guess that will be all of the Wild Facts written from my hotel room in Vancouver. I am flying back into Whitehorse later this afternoon. Unlike our flightless bird, I am actually able to fly wherever I choose. Talk to all of you tomorrow.