Spotting the Southern Cassowary

Southern Cassowary at Skyrails Barron Falls Station

 “Can you see the Southern Cassowary here?” A question often asked by guests to Rangers, at Skyrails Red Peak Station

One of the benefits of living or visiting the wet tropics, especially for those nature lovers amongst us, is that the whole area is abuzz with life. From the most mundane carpark to the thickest wildest jungle, there is always a chance that you could see something special. There are of course ways to make witnessing wildlife more likely.

Whether you’re hunting with a camera or a fishing rod, knowledge of your quarry can be valuable, especially if like an angler, you have a particular animal in mind that you’re looking for. I have rainforest at the back of my home and my six year old son has never seen the resident Bandicoots, but with knowledge of what their conical scratches look like, he knows where they most like to feed at night.

If there is a particular species that you are looking for, you may wish to think about a few key points that will help you identify them and their habitat. As an example lets take a look at a popular Australian rainforest animal that our guests continually ask if they will see on their visit to Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, the Cassowary.

Species: Southern Cassowary

Known Distribution: North Queensland and Southern Papua New Guinea

Habitat: Rainforest

Habit: Ground dwelling

Time Of Day: Diurnal – day active

Diet: Fruit

Southern Cassowary droppings at Skyrail

Southern Cassowary droppings fertilizing young rainforest plants at Skyrail

Behaviour. Cryptic bird, very shy and isolated

Sign (signs that the animal are or have been recently present): Large droppings, often with seeds of rainforest fruits, foot prints, deep call sometimes heard

Appearance: Very large bird, juveniles brown with small casque, adults black with large casque and red and blue wattles and neck and head skin

Local knowledge: Can be invaluable. Local pubs, general stores, caravan parks, accommodation, rangers and bushwalkers will often know good places to spot wildlife or special events as well as animal parks for a guaranteed sighting. There is a resident Cassowary nicknamed ‘Bendy Top’, he has been seen quite a few times recently with two chicks feeding on fallen fig fruits near the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Interpretation Centre at Barron Falls Station.

Online: Great source of wildlife information and images, including information from museums and authorities we liaise with such as Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and Wet Tropics Management Authority.

Offline: Having an expensive camera or spending countless hours researching doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to have better wildlife photos than someone with a disposable camera who can just switch off from their day to day life and immerse themselves in the moment.

To get close to your subject you should know your subject, understand its needs (such as getting close for a good photo but not getting inside its personal space or scaring it), understand how to use your tools (such as your camera) but most importantly be quiet, immerse yourself in its environment and respect that you are visiting its home. It also helps to remain still and make no sudden movements and be patient, spend the time for animals you don’t yet see to be comfortable showing themselves to you rather than you running past them.

People often say to me at Red Peak Station “Can you see Cassowaries here?” and my answer is “you are making a good start, you are in the right habitat where they do occasionally get seen, and if you take part in our Ranger Guided Tour I can show you what they eat, how to look for them, good places to see them, how to act and what to be careful of if you do find them. I can also tell you why they are so important to the forest and show you a statue of what they look like along with a recreation of their droppings to identify them by”.

Skyrail Environmental Ranger Lance Neville

Skyrail Environmental Ranger Lance Neville

Australian Rainforest Facts written by Skyrail Environmental Ranger Lance Neville

Categories: Nature Diary

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