In the past week I was lucky enough to be on holiday in beautiful Mission Beach, in Queensland’s north. It’s home to the endangered cassowary, an amazing dinosaur-like bird that I was lucky enough to see in the wild on 2 separate occasions!

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A cassowary and its chick. They have a distinctive way of walking!

The cassowary is a flightless bird, and the adults grow to more than one metre tall. And yes, like most things in Australia, they can kill you! Luckily, this is extremely rare. Cassowaries aren’t aggressive but like most animals they are territorial and protective of their young. (Interestingly, it is the male cassowary who cares for the eggs and the chicks.) The cassowary’s lethal weapon is the sharp claw on its three-toed foot. These big birds have powerful legs, and a kick and strike with the middle claw (up to  12 centimetres long) can do serious damage.

Both my sightings were made in the comfort of a car (so I was never in any danger) but after Cyclone Yasi hit the Mission Beach area in 2011, many cassowaries were wandering into peoples’ houses searching for food, as their natural food sources had been destroyed. It would be a slightly terrifying experience to have a large flightless bird wander into your kitchen in search of a meal.

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Fresh cassowary poo (it’s actually called scat)! Saw this on a bushwalk but the birds stayed well away, which was probably just as well.

Holidays are always filled with opportunities to pick up story ideas. I haven’t written any cassowary-related stories yet, but I know that my close encounters with this amazing bird will weave its way into my storytelling sooner or later.

Want to know more about the incredible cassowary? Have a look at: