CASSOWARIES can jump as high as professional basketballers to feed upon rainforest fruits.

A scientist and filmmaker spent nine months last year hiding in a camouflaged tent in the Daintree forest to capture stunning footage of the feeding behaviour of southern cassowaries.

University of New South Wales researcher Dan Hunter, who also has his own film company The Natural History Unit, was able to show the endangered birds jumping a maximum of 1m in order to reach fruits growing high in trees.

While it is not the first time the leaping behaviour has been captured on film, Mr Hunter said it demonstrated the animals were not just restricted to foraging the rainforest floor.

Screenshot of leaping cassowary in the Daintree Rainforest. CREDIT: The Natural History Unit/Nat Geo Wild
Screenshot of leaping cassowary in the Daintree Rainforest. CREDIT: The Natural History Unit/Nat Geo Wild

"I think it adds to the amazing understanding that we have that cassowaries play a really important part in the rainforest in distributing fruits and that sort of thing," he said.

Adult southern cassowaries, which can grow up to 2m tall, weighing up to 76kg, hold the title of Australia's heaviest birds.

The animals have strong, powerful clawed legs - which appear dinosaur-like in appearance - which they use to not only propel themselves upwards to grab onto fruit, but also to lash out at potential predators.

Mr Hunter, whose footage has been obtained for the Nat Geo Wild documentary "Dino Bird", said despite his camouflaged tent, he and his colleague were still acutely aware of the danger involved in being close to cassowaries.

"We were certainly made to feel that we were visitors in their rainforest," he said.


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