Velociraptors in Real Life: Northern Cassowaries

Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus (1)
Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus (2)

photo: ferruge

northern cassowary

photo: Viajar24h.com

Habitat: endemic to coastal swamp and lowland rainforests of northern New Guinea and the islands of Yapen, Batanta and Salawati
Status: Vulnerable

I think I’ve found the stunt doubles used in Jurassic Park. These Northern Cassowaries (Casuarius unappendiculatus) are large, stocky flightless birds that look like living relics left over from the age of the dinosaurs. They’re the third heaviest species of bird on the planet after the Ostrich and the similarly-sized Southern Cassowary, with females weighing around 128lbs and males anywhere from 66 to 82 lbs. Both males and females have a hard casque on the top of their head and bright red or yellow colored neck and wattle.

The most ferocious aspect of this bird, though, isn’t its menacing stare but rather their dinosaur like feet:

Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus (6)

photo: ALAMY

And when I say “dinosaur-like feet” I mean, specifically, just like the infamous Velociraptor’s freaky feet. Because, just like velociraptors, Northern Cassowaries have an elongated claw on the end of their feet that they use to defend themselves with. They’ll jump and kick and stab you with it until you’re really, really not into bothering the bird anymore.

Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus (1)

The claw reaches a length of 5 inches (125 millimeters). Combine this with the fact that cassowaries can run up to 31 mph, jump a good 4.9 ft, and are excellent swimmers, being able to cross wide rivers and swim in the sea… well, you’ve got yourself one formidable creature.

Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus (3)

To see exactly what I mean, take a look at cassowary going nuts on this dummy:

The only bright side here is that cassowaries happen to be really, really cute when they’re little. They look like little striped potatoes on legs!

Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus (4)

photo: perth zoo

Too bad they’ll grow up to be so cranky. Oh well, at least we can enjoy them for a little while…