Class: Aves
Order: Struthioniformes
Suborder: Casuarii
Family: Casuariidae

Thumbnail description
Large flightless birds with tiny wings terminating
in long spines, shiny black plumage, three toes,
a casque on the head (also called a helmet or a
crown), and colorful bare skin on the neck

40–67 in (102–170 cm); 30–130 lb (14–59 kg)

Number of genera, species
1 genus; 3 (possibly 4) species

Rainforest and adjacent dense vegetation

Conservation status
Potentially endangered by logging and forest
clearing and by competition from feral pigs and

The cassowaries are ratites, very large flightless birds, in the 

genus Casuarius native to the tropical forests of New Guinea, 

nearby islands, and northeastern Australia.There are three 

extant species recognized today. The most common of these, the 

Southern Cassowary, is the third tallest and second heaviest living

 bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.Cassowaries feed 

mainly on fruit, although all species are truly omnivorous and will 

take a range of other plant food including shoots, grass seeds, and 

fungi in addition toinvertebrates and small vertebrates. 

Cassowaries are very shy, but when provoked they are capable of 

inflicting injuries to dogs and people, although fatalities are 

extremely rare.

The eastern side of Cape York in northern Australia, throughout New Guinea, New Britain, Seram, and Aru, Japen, Salawati, and Batanta islands. Humans have introduced the birds to some of these islands, and their natural distribution is uncertain.

Cassowaries are birds of the rainforest but often stray into adjoining eucalypt forest, palm scrub, tall grassland, savanna, secondary growth, and swamp forest.

Except during courtship and egg-laying, cassowaries are solitary birds, seldom seen in groups, and then usually at some source of abundant food such as a fruiting tree. Each bird occupies a home range, moving around within it to find food. Each species has a characteristic territorial boom call, a threatening roar, given with the head bent down under the body. The birds are able to move quietly through the rainforest until disturbed. The noise of their hasty departure as they crash through the undergrowth is often the first indication of their presence. They swim well and have been recorded reaching an island a mile and a half (2.4 km) from

the coast.

Feeding ecology and diet
Cassowaries feed on the fruits of rainforest trees and shrubs. The birds collect most of these from the ground, using their bill and sometimes their casque to unearth the fallen fruit from the litter of the forest floor. As the cassowaries travel, they disperse the seeds of these fruits throughout the rainforest, thus ensuring the continuance of more than 150 species of rainforest plants. In a study of the southern cassowary in north Queensland, Australia, the fruits of laurels, myrtles, and palms were most important.
Opportunistically, the birds will take fungi, insects, and small vertebrates, but the basic diet consists of fruit. Disturbance of the forest can have serious consequences for cassowaries. Selective logging can remove almost all of one species of tree, so that the crop of fruit from that species is missing from the forest. If the fruit of this tree forms a significant part of the cassowary’s diet, it will be left without food for weeks or months and suffer accordingly. Selective logging damages the bird’s habitat more subtly than clear cutting, but equally seriously.

Conservation status
Disturbance of the forest is the main factor causing a decline
in cassowary numbers. In Australia the cassowary population
is estimated at 1,300 to 2,000 adults. Information on
the status of New Guinea species is scant. The birds are so
secretive—and the political situation so uncertain in West
Irian—that any assessment is mere guesswork. It can only be
said that the birds, or signs of them, can still be found whenever

they are sought.

Significance to humans
Although they do not breed well in zoos, many cassowaries
are kept in New Guinea villages. They are caught as chicks
and raised to be killed and eaten when mature. Some of these
captive birds have caused serious injury, even death, to village
people tending them. They attack unexpectedly, slashing with
powerful forward kicks, tearing the bodies of opponents with
the long sharp claws of the inner toes with such accuracy that

they are much feared.