Friday, 2 May 2008

Cassowary Calendar #6

Male Cassowary and chicks in late April 2008

Male and female Cassowary and chicks. The female is the larger of the two adult birds.

Courting pair.

More courting.

Male stroking female with left leg.

Male mounted on female Cassowary.

Cassowary Calendar #6
1 May 2008

Little has changed since the last report but read on there are some dramatic observations. There seems to little growth on the part of the chicks. They are still “squeaking” and whistling loudly when they are separated from their father. It is the Dry Season now and there is not much on the ground for the birds to eat. This may explain the lack of growth in the chick in the past month or so.

The female, probably their mother, has been accompanying the father and the chicks on most mornings. She is usually in the background and approaches silently with neck outstretched making her look much taller than the male. This is important as size matters with Cassowaries and the female is the dominant member in Cassowary societies. What is interesting is that she accompanies and feeds with the young. They are slightly intimidated and don’t get too close. The male utters grunts and low hisses when she is around and never looks her in the eye. His head is always down and could be described as “submissive”. This is most unusual if you read the literature. Females are supposed to be aggressive towards males and chicks. But read on and you’ll see that she has a motive.

On the morning of 1 May 7.30 am) the female approached the feeding male and chicks but sat down on the ground some metres away from the trio. Her head was positioned horizontally, almost touching the ground. The male moved away from the chicks and attempted to mount. He moved from side to side and then began stroking the female with his left foot, gently, just above the base of the tail. This went on for some 10 minutes while he was on her back. I saw no evidence of copulation. They were silent during this time. The chicks remained in the area and came over from time to time to observe what was going on all the while making low squeaking sounds. After 15-20 minutes the pair separated and the female moved away out of sight. I was reluctant to follow them down the hill as they may allow the bubs to observe, but might not like my presence.

Perhaps, the female’s accompaniment of the trio has to do with her reproductive state. The male will probably ditch the young in August, we’ll see, and then he “disappears” for several months, eventually showing up with the chicks around November. At this stage, with the chicks not nearly grown enough to fend for themselves, he cannot consider sitting on eggs for 50 days or so. The female is probably visiting several males and will breed with one who is not encumbered with chicks or nearing the end of his fostering of the young.

[One observation may be important if you encounter a Cassowary in nature in a dangerous situation. Appearing to be taller than the adversary is the take-home message. Carrying an unopened umbrella that you can raise above your head when approached has been very effective in causing the Cassowary to retreat.]

1 comment:

Camera Trap Codger said...

Good peeping, Tom! You have the makings of a great ethologist. Seems like your place brings the best out of eveybody. LOL