Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The End of the Beginning

Each year around time, it is time for the male cassowary to desert his offspring.
Ever since the birth of his three chicks in late October the male has looked after the chicks, protecting them and initiating them into the rainforest world. If he has done his job properly, he has taught them where and what to eat and where to find it. Now in mid June the female is often in the presence of the male and this suggests that the mating season will be soon upon them and then nesting will occur.

But before that, last year's teeners must be dispensed with. Where days earlier, the male allowed the bubs to crawl all over him and seek refuge under his bulk at night, all of this suddenly changes.

One of three "teenage" Cassowaries

The male drives the bubs away like a mother hen with her clutch when it is time to send them on their way. He is quite insistent chasing the chicks off into the bush.

The bubs just stand there looking and crying their intense distress call. But to no avail. the male does not come to their rescue. This screaming continues for some days. It is a common sound in the rainforest this time of year.

But things can become worse. The male will drive the young teeners well out of his territory, using a great deal of force and bluff if necessary.

The bubs are most vulnerable at this time. They must be able to find food in the midst of the dry season which is the most stressful time of the year. They must also avoid dogs, dingos, pigs and vehicles. A big ask for young callow birds. But the most successful will survive.

It has been our experience that once the male drives away the bubs, after a short period of time, we never see the juveniles again. They just move away and establish their own territory. They eventually lose the ability to produce the distress call and live in a mostly silent, solitary world.


Snail said...

I should be less sentimental about wildlife, but ... those poor chicks. It really is a tough time to find food and it's probably even trickier since Yasi.

Mr. Smiley said...

We feel the same way.

Crash said...

Great post n pics, I actually come across adult Cassowary's in the scrub [while working], however - I've never seen a juv, presumably the young 'go to ground' and rely on camouflage, or maybe there have never been any to be seen - either way, I appreciate the post.


Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks Crash. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

Patricia K. Lichen said...

Wow, how interesting! The poor critters, to go from having a doting father to having a Lothario raging at them.
My cat was woken up from her nap at the distress call, and looked sharply all about trying to figure out what/where it was. (She's giving me the stink eye now but presumably will be back to her nap soon.)