Cassowary with blue helmet, head and neck

A silky black plumage, a blue head and red wattles … Of all its characteristics, the helmet is undoubtedly the one that makes it unique. But beware of those who want to approach it too closely, the helmeted cassowary is considered to be the most dangerous in the world !

The helmeted cassowary, unfit to fly

The helmeted cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) is a bird belonging to the order Casuariiformes and to the family Casuariidae. Like other bird species runners (ratites), it is unable to fly. The animal is indeed devoid of the bone called wishbone on which should normally be grafted the pectoral muscles allowing the flight. In these birds, the female is more imposing than the male. The helmeted cassowary measures 150 to 180 cm depending on the sex and weighs 40 to 70 kg. After the ostrich and the emu, he is the third largest bird in the world. Its weight does not prevent it from running up to 50 km / h and jumping almost 2 m high. There are 2 other species: the cassowary golden neck (Casuarius unappendiculatus) and the cassowary dwarf (Casuarius bennetti).

The tricolor plumage of the helmeted cassowary

The helmeted cassowary has a silhouette massive and a small head wearing a crest-shaped helmet covered with a thick layer of keratin. Its black plumage – whose appearance is similar to hair – keeps the cassowary dry and protects it from thorns which abound in the tropical forest. The animal has a head and a neck blues from which hang long wattles red lively. It has a slightly downward curved bill and gray legs. Of its six strong fingers, two end in a claw sharp as a knife blade, up to 12 cm long.

The most dangerous bird in the world

This particular species agressive is known to be capable of mortally wounding an opponent with a single stroke of the paw with its claw as sharp as a dagger. His attack technique consists of jumping in the air and shooting his weapon down on the enemy. Now accustomed to the presence of theman which approaches and feeds it, the helmeted cassowary no longer fears it and can attack it. Some specimens do not hesitate to load cars or to enter homes. His bellicose nature is multiplied tenfold when it comes to defending his offspring. The bird is classified at the same level of dangerousness as thealligator.

The helmeted cassowary: in Asia and Oceania

The helmeted cassowary occupies the Indonesian islands of Ceram and Aru, New Guinea and northeasternAustralia. The bird is often found at medium altitudes (maximum 1000m), where it frequents tropical forests wet and rainfed as well as swampy areas. Its two cousins ​​(the golden-necked cassowary and the dwarf cassowary) live only in New Guinea.

The helmeted cassowary, sower of seeds

Predominantly omnivorous frugivorous, the helmeted cassowary draws its food from a wide variety of fruit plants. Unable to fly, it grabs the fallen fruits or tears them off the low branches. The runner bird also consumes mushrooms and protein animal : insects, molluscs, small rodents and carrion. In case of food shortage, he does not hesitate to maraud the gardens and orchards. The animal plays a role ecological important in the rainforest because it disperses – through its droppings – large seeds over long distances.

The female, head of the helmeted cassowaries

Once separated from its parents, this bird unsociable seeks a territory far from its congeners, which it defends tooth and nail. So when two males meet, they puff up their feathers and bicker until one of them agrees to leave. If it is a female, a simple threatening parade on his part is enough to scare the male away. And in the mating season, it is she who chooses her partner. Shy and solitary, the helmeted cassowary is difficult to observe because it disappears into the dense forest as soon as an intruder approaches. It is sedentary but can make some erratic movements in search of food. Between its two meals (morning and late afternoon), the animal rests.

The male cassowary incubates its young

The reproduction corresponds to the time of year when fruits are abundant (June to October). During this period, the female tolerates more easily the male who turns around her by uttering vocalizations and by swelling the throat. She mates with 2 or 3 partners and builds a nest by lightly scraping the ground and placing a cushion of plants on it. The 3 to 6 eggs are incubated by the dad for a maximum of 50 days. It is he who will raise newborns, feed them and protect them. The mother walks away and, if she finds another male, performs a second spawning. The young take their independence around 9 months and reach the sexual maturity at the age of 3.

Cassowary with a helmet: no natural predators

If the juveniles are the prey of foxes and wild dogs, the adult does not have natural predators. The different threat weighing on it include the degradation of its habitat (pasture, plantations), hunting as well as road collisions. Today, the helmeted cassowary is not considered threatened throughout its range. Classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 1994 to 2016, the species is now listed in minor concern. The lifespan of the helmeted cassowary is 15 to 20 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.