Category Archives: Australian birds

New Cassowary Chicks, December 2012

“Our” cassowary made an appearance, with his 3 two-month-old chicks, one week ago.
The chicks are inquisitive, yet still keep very close to dad.
They all look very healthy and well fed. Quite a few trees are fruiting; several species of figs and laurels, Black Palms (Normanbya normanbyi) and Kuranda Quandongs (Elaeocarpus bancroftii)- the latter two might still be a bit too  large for the chicks to swallow.
Unfortunately,”our” cassowary’s core territory , he had his nest there,  is under threat:
the 28 ha rainforest property between us and Kuranda National Park has been advertised for sale.
Without interest and support from governments we are trying to raise funds to purchase and conserve said property in perpetuity.cassowaries December 2012cassowaries December 2012.2cassowaries December 2012.3

new cassowary chicks

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Finches and Termites, October 2012

After 12 weeks of mostly dry weather we finally had some welcome rain last night and today (25mm), which led to an interesting observation:

Red-browed finches (Neochmia  temporalis)  and chestnut-breasted mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax) were hopping around in our driveway, picking up termite alates (winged termites), which had just swarmed from their mound, and even catching them in mid-air.

It was surprising to see such typical seed-eaters gorging themselves on insects – and performing some very acrobatic manoeuvres.

Maybe the female finches are stocking up on protein for the production of eggs.

We normally do not have finches on our rainforest property- the grassy areas are rather small. A few pairs of red-browed finches usually arrive in November to build nests, mainly in the palm trees, but then leave at the end of the wet season.

This year, two pairs decided to stay (possibly because we left a few patches of lawn to go to seed), and we put out some bird seed for them. This must have stopped a small flock of chestnut-breasted mannikins in their tracks (we never had them here before) – and they told their friends! We now have a flock of over 100 (they are really difficult to count, being very flighty).

red-browed (firetail) finch

one chestnut-breasted mannikin

many chestnut-breasted mannikins

CASSOWARY UPDATE

We are eagerly awaiting dad’s return after he disappeared  more than 2 months ago.

He never brooded the clutch of 8 eggs he had in early July and abandoned that nest.

Hopefully, the female produced another batch for him.

She is still visiting every 5 to 15 days, looking a bit worse for wear, having lost the rich gloss of her plumage and rather threadbare thighs ( the male scratches her thighs with his claws, when she is sitting down, and he tries to get into mating position). So, presumably, she has been mating with another male.

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Mating Cassowaries, May 2012

This morning we had the privilege to observe cassowaries mating.

First the female sits down, then the male behind her, shuffling closer and closer.

It looks rather clumsy and it is impossible to tell whether he was successful, too many long feathers obscuring the view…

Male cassowaries, as the other ratites, have a penis, which may make mating easier.

The adult birds were very relaxed, they did not even mind one of the chicks stepping over the female’s neck while she was sitting down for mating!

We watched the same pair mating in almost the same spot two years ago; maybe the female prefers the soft grass to a prickly forest floor and enjoys the ” privacy” of a Heliconia leaf over her head.

We didn’t expect the cassowaries to be in mating mood as yet, he usually looks after the chicks a bit longer.

What triggers the mating behaviour?

It has been a very good season with plenty of food and he only had to share it with 2 chicks, having lost the other 3 very early after hatching. He also recovered very well from a deep wound to his left heel. He does not look as exhausted and appears to be in better condition than in previous years.

I am writing this blog on our front veranda, while cassowary dad and the 2 chicks are strolling past, what a fantastic place to be!

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Acrobatic Cassowary, May 2012

All 4 cassowaries came back early this morning (so they did spend the night together!).

When a chick spotted the piece of banana that I put into a tree for the honey-eaters and catbirds,  it tried to reach it by jumping-and “treading air” while doing so.

Dad wasn’t interested in helping (he usually does), but the banana was within easy reach for mum.

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Cassowary Family Life, May 2012

The local male cassowary looks after the chicks alone, like any other cassowary dad.

He crosses paths with the local female occasionally, and when they are ready to mate they travel together for a few weeks.

We would not expect this to happen for  a few months yet, his chicks being approximately 6 months old,  and he usually looks after them for about 9 months.

Yesterday evening the whole family arrived together (dad, the 2 chicks and mum) and, after picking up some palm fruits and drinking from our pond, disappeared into the forest.

I was not quite game enough to follow them, to find out whether they would bed down together, as well. Usually, when I tried to follow a cassowary -at a safe distance- I was always noticed  and chose to retreat.

So why is there the perception that cassowaries are solitairy animals? Certainly our male and female get along very well and the same is true for some cassowaries in the Daintree area.

Any biologists out there doing studies on cassoway behaviour?

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Visiting Cassowary, March 2012

February 2012

The resident cassowary with his 2 three months old chicks is visiting almost daily to feed on the many native fruits which are available at the moment. They particularly like the fruits of the native Black Palm (Normanby normanbia) , native Ginger (Alpinia coerulea) and the exotic Queen Palm (Syagrum romanzoffia).

This season’s chicks seem feistier than usual, they are already chasing the red-legged pademelons and our male brush-turkey, who has his mound just behind our pond.

The brush-turkey always acts very nervously when the cassowaries are here, torn between fight and flight.

I do not think that the cassowaries pose a threat to the brush-turkey’s brood, but the turkey has every reason to discourage the lace monitors (Varanus varius) from coming too close – they would dig out and eat the eggs.

He vehemently defends the area around his mound, chasing the goannas across the garden into the forest, throwing dirt and mulch at them and  the lizards mostly end up clinging to a tree out of the turkey’s reach.

This one lost the tip of its tail in an earlier incident:

cassowary chick chasing brush turkey:

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