Cassowary Spotting

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Out to discover some local wildlife in Cairns? Cassowary spotting is a popular Cairns attraction, due to the birds reclusive nature and endangered status.

Lurking in the rainforests around Cape Tribulation and Mission Beach on a walking track either early morning or late afternoon you may spot a cassowary in the wild.  Cassowaries are large flight-less birds that can run more than 30 mph and its main defence mechanism is its large sharp claws.

The females are larger in size and more colourful than the males displaying colours of blue, yellow, black and tan.  The breeding season commences around May to June with the female laying several clutches of three to five eggs by different fathers. It is during this time that spotters and those adventuring out on walking tracks need to take extra care.

If you encounter a cassowary in the wild, remain very calm gently moving something in front of you for protection and back well away.  The female is the most aggressive is unpredictable, attacking without warning.

Cassowaries are on the endangered list because their habitat has been disturbed by agriculture and urbanisation.  They play a key role in the rainforest by eating fruits and distributing the seeds throughout the rainforests.

A useful resource is the Bird Trails Tropical Guide produced by Birding Tropical Australia which lists all the best birding sites and places to stay in the Cairns region.  A local visitor information centre should also keep copies of this guide for free.

In the wild, cassowaries may (but no guarantees) be spotted around the Mission Beach rainforest areas, Etty Bay, Coquette Point near Innisfail, Kuranda and Wallaman Falls (Girringun National Park).

Some golden rules if you see cassowaries in the wild is to never approach them or their chicks, never feed them and never stop your vehicle on the road to look at them.  The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection have created Living with Wildlife Cassowaries Flyer.

So the next time you’re thinking of things to do in Cairns and you are more of the adventurous outdoors type, maybe cassowary spotting is a great option for you. Just remember, keep your distance if you come across one (especially if it is a male with chicks – the male incubates the eggs for 2 months and then raise the chicks at foot for a further 9 months) and enjoy the rare site. It is certainly worth the effort.

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