Dwarf cassowary

The dwarf ratite from the mountain forests

Gaurav Nalkur

Dwarf cassowary


The dwarf ratite from the mountain forests


This bird, the smallest member of its family, inhabits the mountainous rainforests of New Guinea, with populations on Yapen Island and New Britain, and can occasionally be found in the northeastern to southeastern lowland forests of New Guinea.

The adult Dwarf Cassowary is clad in black plumage, which provides excellent camouflage in the dense, dark undergrowth of the forest floor where it forages. Atop its head sits a distinctive low-rounded helmet, or casque, a characteristic feature of cassowaries and is thought to serve various functions, from social signaling to potentially aiding the bird as it moves through dense vegetation.

Juvenile Dwarf Cassowaries wear a brown plumage, which gradually darkens as they mature. The transition in coloration is not just a sign of aging but also a milestone that signifies a young bird’s readiness to establish its own territory.

These birds are typically solitary, each adult maintaining its own territory. Their diet consists mainly of fallen fruits, which makes them important seed dispersers within their ecosystems. Seed dispersal by cassowaries can lead to the growth of new plants and contribute to the health and diversity of the forest.

Communication among Dwarf Cassowaries is facilitated by low-frequency booming calls, which can travel long distances through the dense forest environment. These calls are critical for maintaining territories and may play a role in mating rituals.

The breeding cycle of the Dwarf Cassowary is not well-documented, partly due to the difficulty of studying these elusive birds in their remote habitats. However, it is known that, as with other cassowaries, the male takes a leading role in the reproductive process. After the female lays her eggs, the male incubates them and takes full responsibility for the care of the chicks once they hatch.


Population est.
Papua New Guinea

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No