Sonntag, 25. August 2013

A really big bird

- in the far north of Australia the cassowary plays a central role in shaping the rain forest.

Today I found an interesting article at national geographics about this very big bird. 


Detail of a Southern Cassowary head - picture wikipedia

The cassowaries (IPA: /,kæsɵwæri/) are ratites (flightless birds without a keel on their sternum bone) in the genus Casuarius native to the tropical forests of New Guinea, nearby islands, and northeastern Australia. 
There are three extant species recognized today. The most common of these, the Southern Cassowary, is the third tallest and second heaviest living bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.

Cassowaries feed on the fruit of several hundred rainforest species and usually pass viable seeds in large dense scats. They are known to disperse seeds over distances greater than a kilometre, and thus play an important role in the ecosystem. Germination rates for seeds of the rare Australian rainforest tree Ryparosa were found to be much higher after passing through a cassowary's gut (92% versus 4%).
Grown  Cassowaries can be up to 1.70 meters high and over 60 kilograms. However, cassowaries hold their head straight, the protective function of the helmet will only occur with bowed head, so they look smaller than they are. A cassowary's three-toed feet have sharp claws. The second toe, the inner one in the medial position, sports a dagger-like claw that is 125 millimetres (5 in) long.

(Read more on Wikipedia).

A road sign in Cairns, Queensland, Australia

They then studied 140 cases of cassowary mortality and found that motor vehicle strikes accounted for 55% of them, and dog attacks produced another 18%.

See this video on YouTube - BBC Natural World - Cassowaries

On the ground in front of me there’s a large round pile of what looks like moist purple mud. It’s roughly the volume of a baseball cap, and it’s studded with berries and seeds—more than 50. Some of the seeds are larger than an avocado stone.
I kneel down to look more closely. Putting my nose just a couple of inches away, I take a sniff. It smells of fruit mixed with a whiff of vinegar. There’s also a hint of that mouth-puckering, astringent flavor you get from strong black tea. Peculiar. But not unpleasant. 

What is it? It’s a bird dropping. A big bird dropping. From a big bird.
I stand up and look around. I’m in the Daintree Rainforest, two hours’ drive up the coast from the seaside city of Cairns, in the far north of Australia. Here and there, shafts of sunlight fall through the canopy, dappling the ground. On a tree beside me, I spot a Boyd’s forest dragon—a handsome lizard with a crest on its head and spikes down its spine. Somewhere nearby, insects are singing. But of a big bird—no sign. 

Read more on national geographics by writer Olivia Judson

Have a nice day
Constanze Hoffmann

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