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!
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.
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?
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: