Cassowary Identification

The Kuranda Conservation cassowary identification project  has the following aims:

Southern Cassowary, cassowary, casso, Casuarius casuarius, female, KCons, Kuranda Conservation, Kuranda, wet tropics, world heritage area,

  • to  record individual cassowaries
  • follow their movements
  • identify road crossings
  • record behaviour between various birds
  • track juveniles’ dispersal to identify areas for vegetation enchancement  

FACTORS for the identification of  individual birds  The best way to identify  individual birds is to take photos regularly, noting any significant changes.  Adult birds have enough variation in the following areas to be easily identified once you know what to look for in their features.  Photos illustrate these points  below – to see larger size photos please click on any picture.

CASQUE – tall helmet-like part above the head  

  • height, shape,  and orientation eg, whether it leans to the right or left
  • markings or damage
  • colour eg, some have black keratin patterning – take care when noting what looks like tiny patches of different colour as sometimes this can be the “peeling’ outer layer with an often golden colour beneath – this seems to even out in a fairly short time.


  • Size, shape and colour patterning. Colour and length can change rapidly depending on mood season, posture etc, so it is better to concentrate on the patterning itself.  The bottom three wattle photos show an unusual wattle on a female.   It appears to be three wattles. Further photos answered the question of  ‘can it really be three wattles?’. No it wasn’t – there are actually the two wattles with one of them divided part way up.  Another great reason to take as many close photos as possible of any distinctive factors.


  • yellow, blue, white and/or black patterning in various areas, or in some cases it may be the lack of these patternings that are worth noting with a particular bird


  • any deformities, damage, or markings – keep in mind that sometimes the edges of the beak may appear damaged or have patches of different colour along it when in fact it is residue of recent fruit or seeds they have eaten


  • shape and colour patterning of area on back of the head and neck leading down into the feathers – remember though this will look totally different with the same bird depending on its posture, and the depth of colour may change depending on season and health of the bird


  • footprint dimensions … this could be in comparison to something the bird stands by and you measure later, or footprints left in muddy areas that can be measured
  • leg or feet scarring … note in the middle photo below the scar on the heel of the foot – it was a nasty cut that has healed well leaving only a scar on the foot in the foreground


  • skirts of male birds are generally longer, while females skirts are the ‘mini’ style – it is certainly not easy to identify a bird this way because the skirt length changes a lot depending on the stance of the bird … below from left to right are a male, female and a couple with the female on the left, male on the right



  • the female lays an average of 4 green eggs in the nest then leaves, taking no part in the parenting process
  • the male takes over the incubation of the clutch, rarely leaving the eggs until they hatch after 47 – 54 days

From the time the chicks hatch, until they are independent, the adult male is the one who is solely in charge of their rearing.  It is difficult to identify individual chicks until they reach adults because of their rapid growth,  and changes in colours and patterning.  For that reason photos have been added to indicate growth and appearance at various stages, but no identification factors have been included.

CHICK     from hatching to approximately 9 months it is totally dependent on male parent 

JUVENILE  –  from approximately 9 to 18 months it is starting to gain independence from male parent 

SUB-ADULT –  from approximately 18 months to 3 years the young bird is now fully independent of male parent 

ADULT – from about 3 to 4 years old 


All photos on this and our other pages are copyright.  KCons thanks the following people for their various contributions:

    • Dianne Daniels
    • Christina Sutter
    • Christine Biddle
    • Liz Gallie
    • Clode family
    • MBHNA Group
    • Lorraine Harris (click to see more of Lorraine’s Cassowary photos)
    • James Biggs whose excellent reference provides a wealth of information on both wild and captive cassowaries  James Biggs – Cassowary Management paper

A lot of information is also being gathered in the following areas by various agencies:

  • CSIRO and KCons are involved in DNA analysis
  • QPWS/UQ are involved in satellite and radio tagging
  • KCons are active in placement of road crossing signs, action activated camera monitoring, collection of scats, and through input to our website – community sightings/scats/behaviour
  • Community – involvement with KCons activities

Our Wet Tropics rainforests’ future health depends on the  vital role of the cassowary

– please help us help the cassowaries.