Although my vote for favorite bird during our 1990 Australian expedition is the Tawny Frogmouth (see last post), my family picks the Southern Cassowary. Cassowarys mainly eat fruit. Indeed, they are ecologically important. Fruit seeds are dispersed as they pass through cassowary digestive systems. The birds also consume a wide variety of other vegetable and animal prey. Although usually shy, they can be dangerous when defending their nests or young. Notice the young cassowary to the right of the adult. The function of the horn is unknown--perhaps a sexual ornament or maybe a defensive armament.
We found this cassowary in the rainforest near Mission Beach, Queensland. We asked our motel clerk where to find them. He replied, "The Chamber of Commerce won't approve of what I am about to tell you. The best place to find them is in the town dump." That's where we took this photograph. Discovering the Cassowary was like finding a living dinosaur strolling among the rusting cars and rotting garbage.