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Southern cassowary        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Cassowaries are one of the most dramatic birds on the planet:  almost as big as ostriches, colorfully marked, and with an ominous (but mostly undeserved) reputation for aggression.   They are also key species for the ecology of the rainforests they live in, as prime vectors for the seeds of many tree species.  Unfortunately they are in decline in their small range in far northeast Queensland, where we encountered these on the Atherton Tablelands.   Both encounters were .... interesting.   In November 2015 I was looking at some small bird in the undergrowth when I noticed a female cassowary casually strolling down the road towards me.   I froze and took photos, hoping my wife would follow me to see the bird (she did).   Things got a little tense when it seemed to take a very strong interest in our blue shirts (perhaps because the color resembled its neck coloration, or because some of the species' favorite fruits are blue).   A couple of times I had to hide behind my tripod to keep out of peck range, but that seemed to work.   Eventually it wandered off into the forest.
          Then in 2016, we repeatedly encountered a male and his two large chicks at a forest lodge near Tarzali.   Once they got between my wife and our building, leading to a tense half-hour with the male dozing on his ankles while the curious chicks kept trying to approach my somewhat concerned spouse.   Eventually they wandered off without incident (males with chicks must be respected; they can be protective and the foot images shows that they have the equipment to do serious damage if they wish).
          To my mind, cassowaries are much more impressive than the other Australian ratite, the emu.

  • Canon 7D2; 100-400 MI. II zoom or 24-105 zoom, electronic flash (2015, 2016)