Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Admission: $11 Adults, $6 Child
Behind the Scenes: Cassowary
That’s Big Bird – he is our male cassowary here at the Zoo. He may look mean, but he seemed pretty sweet when I went to visit him in holding the other day. The cassowary holding building is tucked over by the train station near the Australia exhibit.
Big Bird is nice, but a cassowary’s kick can be deadly. They use a dagger-like claw on their middle toe as defensive weapon. He weighs about 100 pounds and is 27 years old. In captivity, a cassowary can live to be about 40 years old.
John Krogmeier, one of the Zoo’s bird and reptile animal keepers, says that Big Bird likes attention from the keepers and the Zoo’s guests. Sydney, the Zoo’s new female cassowary, was pretty nice as well, but she didn’t get nearly as close to the camera.
Isn't Sydney the cassowary sweet?
Sydney is 2 years old and weighs about 50 pounds. John says she will eventually likely be bigger than Big Bird. They both came to Blank Park Zoo from a private animal provider in Florida. The cassowaries eat a diet of mostly romaine lettuce, fruits and other vegetables, in addition to pelleted grains. Fun fact: they can eat an entire banana in one bite!
Cassowaries are a large, flightless bird commonly found in the tropics of Australia, and they are similar to an ostrich. They are very colorful and have horn-like, but soft and spongy crests called casques on their heads.
When I went to visit the cassowaries, John was trying a new form of animal enrichment, putting the lettuce into holes in a PVC log. Typically, enrichment for the cassowaries involves scattering food around the exhibit, stimulating them to hunt for their food.
PVC enrichment log with romaine lettuce
Whether he was being shy because I was there or because it was something new, Big Bird just didn’t want anything to do with it and instead paced around his exhibit. John tried moving the lettuce to see if it would help, but Big Bird didn’t show any interest.
A second try for the enrichment.
That’s one thing about enrichment: you don’t know what the animals do or don’t like until you try something new! The key is to stimulate their mental and physical health.
While I was waiting for Big Bird to eat, I took a photo of our cattle egrets.
Cattle egrets in holding
For a cassowary to be outside, it has to be at least 40 degrees with no snow or ice on the ground for the animal's safety. An unseasonably warm day doesn't necessarily mean they will be out. You will get to meet Sydney this spring!
The Zoo’s nearly 700 birds are in holding areas all around the Zoo – stay tuned to the blog to learn more about them!