• Martha Iserman

Murder Turkeys and Snake Eating Singers!

After getting some great feedback on my koala painting from a few days ago, I decided to do a whole series of iconic Australian animals in a similar style. I immediately thought of the Cassowary, a truly bizarre creature that I got to see up close at the Healesville Sanctuary .

A few fun facts about the Cassowary;

-They are pretty shy but can be dangerous if provoked. They use their sharp beak to peck, their large crest to head-butt, and most importantly, their razor-sharp claw on their middle toe to slash. They have killed humans so don't mess with this murder turkey.

-Adults can weigh as much as 157 lbs, and they can jump 7 feet off of the ground.

-The males raise their young, incubating the eggs for at least 50 days and then protecting the chicks for another 9 months. Way to go, dads!

-Cassowaries eat mostly fruit and berries but will go for the occasional rodent, lizard, or... poop. They're considered frugivores, so this isn't that unusual as they get extra nutrients from the partially digested fruit in droppings.

-The crest on the Cassowary's head is called a "casque", and it's made of a spongey material covered in keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails. It's not known exactly what it's purpose is, with some scientists hypothesizing it's used as a shock absorber and others positing it could help with its mating calls.

I also added the Kookaburra painting I completed in the early days of my arrival to AU to this series by editing its style slightly and adding it to the same format.

Kookaburras live all around our house in the Belgrave Hills. We know this because of their insanely loud calls every morning. Look up what Kookaburras sound like and then imagine a family of them staring in your bedroom window at 6am making this sound at the volume of a car horn and you'll get the idea of what I had to adjust to.

Despite that, they are my favorite birds in Australia. They are so beautiful and serene looking (when not laughing like the Joker on steroids) and they sometimes follow me on my walks to the store.

They eat snakes and lizards, and we were told that if you leave bits of meat out they will come and pick it out of your hand. We haven't succeeded to tame one yet, but I did lure one to our porch right in front of my studio window.

(It's smashing the meat pieces like it would the head of a snake it caught because even the prettiest things in Australia are hardcore.)

So these are the 3 Australian animals I have so far. Stay tuned for more oddities of evolution from the "Land Down Under" and comment if you have any special requests!

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