Cassowary Wars

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Cassowary Wars
From: Phil Gregory <>
Date: Thu, 30 May 2002 13:08:46 +1000
Cassowary wars
Winter is now set in here in Far north Queensland, so we have lots of Spotted Catbirds and Victoria's Riflebirds coming to the feeders, as this is a time of scarcity in the forests, especially after an unusually dry wet season with just 30% of normal rainfall. The Red-necked Crakes raised three youngsters to fledging, losing one of the original brood of four. They were very late in nesting, only appearing in late February probably due to the dry conditions, as in other years this is the time of the second brood. The adult birds show well each day still.

The male Cassowary has finally abandoned the chicks after some 8 months, leaving them to fend for themselves on April 30. I guess he got fed up with the bickering and fighting amongst the rapidly growing chicks, and the fact they guzzled all the food before he could get any! We can now tell that they are two males and one female, as the bustle is developing in the male birds. All three have been around till late May, but one has now vanished, maybe wandered off, maybe killed, we just don't know. The other two siblings remain, but dodge the male, who chases them off at great speed each time they meet. They hiss at each other and raise the rump feathering in a cascade of filamentous plumes when alarmed. They also squabble with each other and remain apart for most of the time.  Finding a new territory along here will be hard as the adults occupy all the available space, there being at least four birds in 3 km of forest along from us. This is the critical time for the chicks, trying to survive on their own and find a vacant spot, and sadly most will not make it.

A large colourful female (Missy)  is also around a lot associating with the male, so a new breeding attempt may be under way ere too much longer. She tolerates the chicks, which have in previous years long gone by this stage, so it will be interesting to see how it progresses from here.
Two flocks of Hardheads on the nearby Barron River in late May were new for the local list, whilst Bush-hen was an addition earlier this year.
Good birding
Phil Gregory
Cassowary House, Kuranda, Far North Queensland

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