NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Cassowaries are the second largest birds on earth. Second only to ostriches.
“This is Wren,” pointed Lauren Covington, Nashville Zoo Avian Keeper. “This is our Southern Cassowary. He is a nine-year-old male, and they are native to Australia.”
Cassowaries can also be found in New Guinea and New Zealand.
Wren, the male cassowary at the Nashville Zoo, weighs 100lbs while females can reach up to 150lbs.
To grow that large, as you might expect, they eat a lot.
“He gets fed three times a day,” said Covington. “They keep me very busy. They eat about fifteen pounds a day, which is ten percent of their body weight. His may be a little less, a little more during the whole year, because we base it off of the seasonal hormones that they have.”
They are fed rodents like mice and a variety of fruits.
“These are his favorite…purple grapes, not green grapes!” said Covington.
And one feature that many people ask about, “What’s on top of their head?”
“That thing on top of their head is called a casque. It’s made out of keratin, just like our nails and our hair. It’s like a honeycomb structure on top of their head. So, it’s going to amplify their vocalizations, thermal regulation to help with their temperature, also for attracting a mate,” explained Covington.
That brings us to how they reproduce and raise their offspring.
“The female has nothing to do with it. She comes around for the breeding season, and then she leaves to find a new mate,” said Covington.
Female cassowaries lay their eggs and the males do all the incubating. The males also raise the chicks for up to nine months.
Another interesting fact, cassowaries are related to dinosaurs.
“They are descendants of dinosaurs. We like to call them our modern-day dinosaurs because of that cool toe claw kind of resembles a velociraptor,” Covington said.
“It’s about five inches long on a female, a little shorter on a male. But that is their defense mechanism. So, how else are they going to protect themselves if they can’t fly away from another cassowary or an intruder,” she said.
To see the cassowaries at the Nashville Zoo, check out their exhibit across from the Kangaroo Kickabout.
News 2 has partnered with Nashville Zoo to bring you weekly segments of Zoopalooza. You can watch them on News 2 on Good Morning Nashville on Saturday and right here on WKRN.com.