A Home Visit by the World’s Most Dangerous Bird

A few years ago I wrote a post about Mad Birds in Australia. I listed 5 birds, all mad in their own different way, and then added a final sixth, arguably the maddest of them all.

I probably didn’t do this huge and sometimes intimidating creature full justice, and I was reminded of that when one of them wandered into somebody’s house for a little look around some time last week.

I am, of course, talking about the cassowary…



The southern cassowary

Make no bones about it, a cassowary can kill you. A cassowary can chase you down, it can head-butt you, it can kick you, it can peck you, it can claw you, it can jump on you and it can charge at you.

Think you can run away? Good luck with that. Usain Bolt is the fastest ever recorded running human and reached speeds of around 27 mph during his world record breaking 100 metre sprint.

A cassowary can run at 31 mph.

The cassowary’s legs are extraordinarily powerful, and their two pairs of three toes have very long claws. As you will see in a video coming up shortly, they are described as the most dangerous bird in the world. They have the ability to ‘unzip a human being when threatened‘.

A cassowary can probably run, jump, kick, claw, peck and head-butt all at the same time. Just look again at the picture of this bird, its head seems to be designed specifically for head-butting.

The good news though is in that previously used word ‘threatened’. Cassowaries usually only attack when they do feel threatened. The last recorded death here in Australia as a result of a cassowary attack was in 1926. A 16-year-old boy was kicked in the neck which probably severed his jugular vein; but he was, apparently, attacking it with a club.

So, if one of these 5 foot tall 80+ kilogram birds strolls into your house for a little look around, it’s probably best to leave him be.

That’s exactly what Sue and Peter Leach did last week when a cassowary wandered into their home at Wongaling Beach, south of Cairns. Well, Peter managed to grab his camera first to take a few pictures which have now been turned into this short YouTube video…

It has happened before, although this cassowary was just a youngster, he was nowhere near as scary…

The cassowary is dangerous and deadly for sure, let’s hear more from the cassowary keeper at Sydney zoo…

Yes, best advice, back away slowly.

Or quickly…

Despite all of this, cassowaries are not an Australian Bad Thing. They play a crucial role in the disbursement of seeds for some native rainforest plants in Far North Queensland. As one of the videos above stated, they are an endangered species, so please do drive carefully when you are in cassowary country.

Don’t try and feed them though, apparently 75% of attacks on humans are as a result of people trying to give them food. I told you the bird was mad, didn’t I?

My thanks again to JohnOh for putting me on to this story.

No post on Monday, this blog will be closed for Anzac Day. Back on Wednesday.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Peter Rowland June 9, 2016, 2:10 pm | Link

    Hi Bob,

    I actually did live in the UK in the early 80’s and I reckon that Maggie Thatcher was way more scary than a Cassowary!

    Although I did have my first wild encounter with a Southern Cassowary last year up near Cairns, and that was pretty unnerving! Luckily it was a female Cassowary that decided it wanted to check me out (should feel flattered I guess), and not the way more aggressive and deadly male. She was also used to people and was often given handouts by the people who owned the property (just like feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square, only way more poo to wipe off your shoulder). The Guinness Book of Records gives the Southern Cassowary the title of “the most dangerous bird on Earth”, now that has to evoke images of Budgies crossed with crocodiles and then raised by sharks. The male Cassowary is extremely dangerous during the breeding season when it is raising the chicks (a job that the male is given in both the Cassowary and the Emu, as well as a few other bird species). And you are right Bob, you have no way of outrunning it and hiding in the rainforest is not an option either, because it just lowers its head and uses the bony casque on the top as a battering ram!

    Love your work …

    • BobinOz June 9, 2016, 8:32 pm | Link

      I am sure the entire Thatcher Cabinet ministers would wholeheartedly agree with you on that one 🙂

      That must have been a quite unnerving experience, and it is possibly one that I might be encountering myself quite soon. I’m hitting the road later this month and heading north, Cairns is one of my destinations. Of course I’ll be going to Kuranda on the train and also visiting Daintree National Park.

      I’m a little conflicted really, I would love to see a real wild cassowary close-up, but I would also hate to see a real wild cassowary close-up. I did read your article about your cassowary encounter, it’s very good, but I think you were a lot braver than I would have been. As I understand it, a cassowary approached you at your accommodation and you didn’t go inside and shut the door?

      Instead you let it peck at your shoes?

      That is very brave of you, and it has inspired me, but that’s probably not a good thing. I will take some paracetamol with me just in case things go wrong.

      Glad to hear you like my stuff, cheers, Bob

  • djmcbell May 11, 2016, 9:36 pm | Link

    “A Home Visit by the World’s Most Dangerous Bird”

    Thought Maggie Thatcher was dead?

    • BobinOz May 12, 2016, 7:47 pm | Link

      For any of my readers who didn’t live in Britain in the 80s, you may want to brush up on that the political situation at that time. If you are still confused, you may want to also check the urban dictionary for the now (I think) defunct alternative meaning of the word ‘bird’.

      Let’s move on 🙂

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