Beachgoers at a campground in Australia were shocked when a large and “unpredictable” bird emerged from a swim, according to a video and wildlife officials.
Onlookers spotted a creature swimming toward the Bingil Bay Campground on Oct. 31, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science said in a Nov. 13 news release. At first, they thought it was a turtle or a shark.
As the animal reached the shore, its identity became clear. It was a juvenile cassowary, wildlife officials said.
Cassowaries are a large species of flightless bird found in rainforests of Queensland and Papua New Guinea, according to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science. They can reach about 6.5 feet tall and about 167 pounds. The bird has a long colorful neck, a “helmet” on its head and a “large dagger-shaped claw” on its toes.
Due to their size, strength and claws, cassowaries are considered “the world’s most dangerous bird,” according to an article from the Library of Congress.
The bird’s behavior is also “unpredictable,” the release said.
“Cassowaries can swim and will take to the water to cross from one side of a river to the other, or if they feel threatened by domestic dogs or another cassowary through a territorial dispute,” Stephen Clough, a wildlife officer with the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, said in the release.
“We’re not sure how long this animal was in the water or why it went for a swim but the footage is astonishing,” Clough said.
The campground’s host, Nikita McDowell, filmed the cassowary’s “unexpected ocean swim,” officials said.
Video footage shared on Facebook by 9 News shows the large bird bobbing along the waves. From afar, only its head and neck are visible, giving the impression of a periscope. As the bird reached the shore, the rest of its brown-black body became visible.
The cassowary appears to look at the camera several times, video footage shows. Its head has a mohawk-like helmet structure on top. Some pink and blue coloring is visible on its neck.
“It just floated to shore until it reached the level where its feet could touch the ground,” McDowell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“It must’ve been exhausted as it stood in the shade beneath a tree with its legs shaking for about half an hour,” McDowell said in the release. “I went to make a coffee and when I returned, it was gone.”
“I knew it wasn’t going to have the energy to attack me or anything,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I am just so happy it’s moved on and safe and healthy,”
“This rare sighting and lucky escape by the cassowary is a reminder that we all need to do what we can to protect and conserve the species,” Clough said in the release.
“There’s an estimated 4,000 cassowaries remaining in Queensland, and they face numerous threats to their survival including habitat loss, vehicle strikes and domestic dog attacks,” he said.
Bingil Bay is in the northeastern state of Queensland and about 1,400 miles northwest of Sydney.