Family

CHAPTER

phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Cassowaries are large, long-legged birds. They range in height from 40 to 67 inches (102 to 170 centimeters and weigh 30 to 130 pounds (14 to 59 kilograms). They have tiny wings with coarse, black feathers.

They belong to a group of birds called ratites, which are flightless birds that have a flat breastbone rather than a keeled breastbone like birds of flight. They have a simplified wing bone structure, strong legs, and no feather vanes, making it unnecessary to oil the feathers. Consequently, unlike most birds they have no preen gland, a gland on the rear of most birds which secretes an oil the birds use in grooming.

Their heads are a brilliant blue and purple color, topped with a casque, or helmet, on the top. They have long, red wattles, folds of unfeathered skin, that hang from the neck, much like those of a turkey.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Cassowaries are found in northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and surrounding islands.

HABITAT

Cassowaries live in rainforest, ranging from lowland swamp forests to mountainous forests.

DIET

Cassowaries are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and flesh. Their diet consists mainly of fruit, but they will also eat lizards, snakes, small marsupials (animals that have a pouch), and other birds.

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