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Nature Photography - Done Naturally

Southern Cassowary

Casuarius casuarius

A dinosaur...a freaking dinosaur just stepped out of the rainforest in front of us. That's what first went through my mind when we were in Daintree National Park in Queensland, Australia, in June of 2019. We were taking our once-in-a-lifetime vacation of Australia, visiting a number of locations in eastern Australia, including the tropical northeastern part of the country. While staying in Port Douglas along the far northeastern coast, we did a trip into Daintree National Park, considered the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.  One bird I knew was in the area, but really didn't expect to see, was a Southern Cassowary. These massive birds get up to six feet tall and close to 200 pounds, so you'd think they'd be easy to spot! However, they're considered endangered in Australia, as there are only estimated to be 1,500 to 2,500 of them left.

We were hiking a trail in Daintree National Park and were walking along a road to return us to our car when we heard something in the forest to our right. Pretty unmistakable when you finally do see a Cassowary! As we stopped (and backed off some, given the dangerous reputation of Cassowaries), nothing less than a dinosaur stepped out of the forest and onto the road in front of us. It did give us one quick look, but seemed pretty unconcerned about our presence, as it slowly walked along the road a bit, before disappearing into the forest on the other side of the road.

A birding (and life!) highlight that I will certainly never forget! But our Cassowary experiences on this trip weren't over yet! After spending time in the Port Douglas and Daintree area, we next headed up to the Atherton Tablelands, a higher area inland from the coast. Much of the relict rainforest in this area has been cut, but we stayed in an incredible spot...the Rainforest Canopy Treehouses near Tarzali. A relic patch of in-tact rainforest, we had a (very nice!) "treehouse" all to our own, with more wildlife than I can summarize here. One of the highlights though...for the last 15 years or so, this little patch of forest has been home to a male Southern Cassowary that uses the area to raise its young! Cassowaries are pretty unique, in that after the young hatch, it's the male that takes the young and raises them. And it's thought that the same male has been using this patch for years to raise his families. He'd disappear for mating season, presumably to find his mate and nest, and then lead the young back to the Tarzali area to raise.

Twice during our 4 day stay in the Treehouses, we had the privilege of the previous year's "chicks" visiting the area near our treehouse! Dad was already gone, presumably off to find his mate for another successful nesting season, but the two young from the year before were still hanging around. The 'young' were already 5 feet tall however and pretty much resembled a full-grown Cassowary!  They'd come below the Treehouse and drink from some of the puddles that were found there. I never thought in a million years that not only would we have the privilege of seeing multiple Cassowaries on this trip, but that we'd be so close that I could get a close up facial portrait of a wild bird!

Click here to see more photos from this 2019 Australia trip

Southern Cassowary - Casuarius casuarius

Southern Cassowary - Casuarius casuarius

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