Saturday, 28 June 2014


On a brief trip to Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands earlier this month, I held hopes of seeking out several species of bird I had not yet seen, and that had eluded me on two previous trips to the region over the past decade. These included the Southern Cassowary, Chowchilla, and White-browed Robin as good to reasonable chances; and Great-billed Heron, Pale-vented Bush-hen, and Lesser Sooty Owl as less likely targets.

Unfortunately, the weather didn't live up to expectations of beautiful one day and perfect the next, and indeed, once the rain set in at the end of our first day it didn't stop until well after we were on the plane back to an only slightly more wintery Canberra.

This meant the Chowchillas that are resident in the rainforests around the accommodation we had in Kuranda went to ground (pun intended, sadly) and were not heard at all so could not be tracked down; nor was the local Lesser Sooty Owl calling; and I wasn't prepared to subject the hire car to the dirt (mud?) roads I had in mind for searching for the White-browed Robins. 

The end result was that I ended up getting to see only one of my key target birds. But it is a magnificent bird! 

So because there aren't many photos to show for my efforts, I've resorted, rather pathetically, to showing several bits of photos in a kind of jigsaw puzzle build-up to the finale. And even that is still only part of the bird - the conditions were so dark and wet that only flash photography was possible and this presented its own problems.


massive feet.

Exposed and hairy...

ear hole in an unlikely pale blue face.

Flaccid, pendulous...

Wattles hanging grotesquely from a neck...

itself carunculated in gaudy orange, crimson and cobalt.

This is Missy, the people-habituated female cassowary that visits Cassowary House just outside of Kuranda in Far North Queensland.

Although well accustomed to people, and expectant of daily handouts of fruit, Missy is a wild bird who comes and goes as she pleases. She approached me to within about 1 metre on occasion, a slightly daunting prospect given their reputed aggressive nature and ability to disembowel with a single rake of their massive claws. 

But she was ever the 'lady' and it was a privilege to see such an amazing and endangered bird up so close and personal. And my apologies for calling her 'Mama Cass' until I discovered the name Missy had nomenclatural precedence. 


  1. It's funny how kids will accept anything as normal and not worth great investigation. All those visual characteristics you describe should make a child curious and fascinated, but as I mentioned to K, I can remember trying to bait the cassowaries in Charters Towers park to incite action, without ever a thought as to beauty or otherwise. Never seen one since.

    Too bad about the weather but good that you well and truly saw this bird.


    1. For me it was as much relief (almost) as it was rewarding. The closest I'd come to them previously was a pile of droppings on a path at Mission Beach back in 2005, when returning from a banding trip to Iron Range with Mark Clayton and Richard Allen.