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Our Hunt for the Elusive Cassowary

Our Hunt for the Elusive Cassowary
Photo Information
Copyright: John Plumb (JPlumb) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 618 W: 158 N: 896] (2904)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2007-06-24
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D200, NIKKOR AF-S 18-200mm F3.5-5.6 ED DX VR
Exposure: f/6.7, 1/60 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2007-07-09 18:27
Viewed: 4404
Points: 38
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
My wife and I made a trip to the Cairns – Townsville area in North Queensland. One of our objectives on this trip (mine anyway) was to see and hopefully get a decent shot of the Southern Cassowary (also called the Double-wattled Cassowary). These are a threatened species with estimates of their population range between 1,500 and 10,000 individuals. There are about 40 kept in captivity in Australia. We spent part of one day looking in the Mission Beach area on our drive to Townsville, then on return we stayed over in Mission Beach and spent another day tromping around in the National Park, and driving some of the side roads. There are signs posted all over telling you to be careful while driving so you don’t hit these guys. We were beginning to think they were a myth (for tourists), and after spending another fruitless day searching we were actually leaving town. I continued to follow the beach out however and we found this lady right next to the bush in the clearing by the road.

These can be very elusive birds, adept at disappearing into the rainforest before you know they are even there. This one didn't seem to be the least bit intimidated by us. The Southern Cassowary is the largest bird in Australia and 2nd largest in the world, after the ostrich. They are a flightless bird, native to the tropical forests of New Guinea and North Eastern Australia. They grow to about 5-6 feet tall. They have double shafted feathers, which close up almost appear as hair. The females are larger and more brightly coloured. This lady was a very good representative of the population.

They are listed in the 2004 edition of the Guinness World Records as the world’s most dangerous bird, and have been known to inflict fatal injuries. They have three toed feet with a dagger like middle claw of 5 inches. They use this to disembowel their enemies with a single kick. They can run up to 50 kph (32mph) through the thick brush. They do this by lowering their head and splitting the brush with their casque. If they hit a large tree this may also serve as a helmet. They didn’t strike me as the most intelligent bird I’ve ever seen. They can jump up to 5 feet and they are reported to be good swimmers. Signs in the bush warned us to keep something between us, and back away slowly if we saw one in the wild. When we finally found this one, I kept the car between us.

They feed on the fruit of several hundred rain forest species and usually pass viable seeds in large dense scats. Germination of some seeds is said to be improved after passing through a Cassowary gut, so they definitely play an important role in the ecosystem. They will also feed on fungi, snails, insects, frogs, snakes and other small animals.

The females lay three to eight large, pale green-blue eggs in a clutch. These eggs measure 9-14 cm. Only the ostrich and emu eggs are larger. The female does not care for the eggs, the male incubates them for two months, then cares for the brown-striped chicks for 9 months, defending them fiercely against all potential predators, including humans.

Much of this from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassowary

Workflow was as follow:
Shot in Raw - NEF files adjusted for exposure and shadow
Adjusted levels
Adjusted curves for additional light and contrast
Dodged and burned with overlay layer (10% opacity black and white brush)
Added a layer for sharpening and “over-sharpened” with USM
Modified sharpening with a layer mask (25% opacity black brush)
Saved as a tiff
For this post, cropped, and applied sharpen edges to the original USM layer, framed, and saved as a jpeg

gracious, blakitan, earthtraveler, Jamesp, uleko, marieproue, Adanac, Bee-Eug, hester, zenitlady, pierrefonds, lovenature, mlines has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To SueThomson: Not so BraveJPlumb 1 04-17 03:43
To uleko: CairnsJPlumb 4 07-11 22:46
To earthtraveler: Happy to not be DisembowledJPlumb 1 07-10 01:46
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Critiques [Translate]

great pic of this amazing bird in nature, TFS Ori

Hi John,
Nicely capturing this big bird (cassowary). Well focused, sharp.
Very nice to view this bird at its natural habitat.
Great shot.


Hi John,
Very nice capture of this Cassowary in it's natural setting.
Good composition, focus and light.
Interesting note.
Happy to hear you were not disembowled! :-)

hi john,
nice capture of this strange looking bird, nice eye contact, good focus, sharp image
tfs & regards

  • Great 
  • Jamesp Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
  • [2007-07-10 0:24]

Hi John

WOW - you deserve at least double points for getting this shot! The lighting on the head is great and so is the composition showing the habitat.

I saw one in New Guinea, but didn't have my camera at hand!


Dear John,
good exposure and focus on this Cassowary!
perfect clarity with much details from a distance
my first encounter with this bird with much help from useful notes too!
thanks for sharing

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2007-07-10 4:57]
  • [+]

Hello John,
WOW, you're really lucky to have seen this Cassowary and even more lucky to get such a perfect capture of it!! We spent hours looking for it when in Queensland but only saw it on the warning signs!! Brilliant shot, it looks really good there trying to hide at the edge of the forest. I like its pose very much and sharpness and colours are excellent too. Congratulations!!
TFS and regards, Ulla

  • Great 
  • Mana Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1772 W: 36 N: 5597] (18598)
  • [2007-07-10 6:39]

Hi John,
Wonderful shot of this gorgeous looking big Cassowary in the wild. I have only seen them inside our local zoo. Nice details on its plumage and spot-on focus. Great POV and a superb composition. Kudos.

Superbe photo, très belle composition, impressionnant comme animal.

  • Great 
  • Adanac Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1273 W: 1 N: 6188] (21378)
  • [2007-07-10 19:17]

Hello John,
First your beautiful composition is wonderfully focus and exposed and secondly great note, thanks for the work John.

  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2007-07-11 20:46]

Hello John

A very impressive post.You accomplished your goal and provided a beautiful shot of this Cassowary.The focus is very good with sharp details.The lighting is well done with very nice colours.Great job.TFS


Hi John

This is a wonderful shot of a very elusive bird. The light was just right to highlight the beautiful colours of the head and neck. Composition is very good showing the bird against the undergrowth and habitat.
Interesting note.


  • Great 
  • hester Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1515 W: 18 N: 3165] (11638)
  • [2007-07-19 10:41]

Hi John

I love the whole composition of the shot. The plant textures and colours add to the shot. Lovely sharp shot of this great bird as well



Hi again, John! Immediate reaction--prehistoric forest! Superb capture! Linda

Hi John,

A nice image of the cassowary, the photo has a good composition, DOF and nice colors. Thanks for sharing.


  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2007-08-18 9:52]

Hello John, very good oicture of this very striking bird, great compostion and technique. Good note too. Thanks,


Hi John
The Cassowary is definately a unique looking bird. Thanks for sharing this shy and colourful bird in his natural enviromnet. Nicely composed with soft lighting and excellent detail. Great notes!
TFS Janice
did you see my wollemi tree photo???

This is an amazing coup to get a shot of this bird in her natural habitat. And it is a fine shot at that! I nominate you for a photographer's bravery award because these birds can be very aggressive and don't take kindly to being disturbed. Well done!

  • Great 
  • mlines Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 556 W: 26 N: 668] (3116)
  • [2008-05-23 19:11]

Hi John, It was good to find such a classic specimen as this. It is an intreging large bird with a lot of lore around it for many years. Good composition with natural surroundings. One of your best. TFS. Murray

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