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In an earlier posting, Darren Naish commented on the uses of the crest or
casque of the cassowary.
I would be grateful for any references to the statement that 'cassowaries use
their crests as tools when foraging in soil and leaf litter' or 'as foliage
deflectors'. I have never seen any suggestion of the former behaviour. The
major foods of cassowaries are fruits taken off the surface of the ground.
The second possibility seems unlikely given the relative orientation of the
eyes if the casque is pointed forward in a position to part the foliage. There
is too high a chance that the leaves would suddenly give way to something
harder, like a tree trunk, and a downward looking cassowary would come to an
abrupt halt. The casque is not strong and seems poorly constructed for such
use. I suspect that many of the breaks in the casques of captive birds come
from collisions with cage bars as they attempt to maul zoo keepers and the
One suggestion that I have heard is that the casques serve as social signals.
Cassowaries are grumpy solitary beasts, which only come together (albeit
grudgingly) only in the mating season. At other times meetings between two
individuals result in one being scooted out of the area. Given the armament on
the feet of these birds, a obvious signal of fitness or strength would avoid
some potentially nasty wounds.