The dwarf cassowary is a secretive bird (5), which moves warily though dense jungle and will run for cover if disturbed (2) (5). It can run at up to 48 kilometres per hour, even through dense undergrowth, with its lowered head and casque protecting the bird from thorny vegetation (5). Surprisingly for its bulky size, the dwarf cassowary can also leap obstacles, swim rivers (5), and defend itself with a kick from its powerful, clawed feet (3).
Due to its elusive behaviour, and solitary nature (2), the dwarf cassowary is more likely to be heard than seen (5). Its call, a deep booming sound, is the world’s lowest known bird call, and is thought to be ideal for communicating with distant cassowaries in dense forest as low frequencies can penetrate vegetation (9). It has been hypothesized that the horny casque may act as an amplifier to produce these resonating calls, or assist in receiving the calls of other cassowaries (9) (10).
Foraging alone, the dwarf cassowary feeds on fleshy fruits (2). It can swallow large fruits whole, and the seeds pass undamaged through the gut, making them an important disperser of seeds in the forests in which they occur (3). The dwarf cassowary is also suspected of eating soil, a practice called geophagy, which is thought to act to bind poisonous or bitter tasting substances in certain fruits and seeds, allowing the cassowary to digest these otherwise nutritious plant parts (11)
Cassowary females typically lay three to six eggs between June and August. These large, greenish eggs, measuring 13 centimetres long, are laid onto a nest of leaves at the base of a tree (5), and are incubated entirely by the male (7). The male also takes responsibility for caring for the young chicks, in which the female plays no part (7).