ALACHUA (CBSMiami) — A Florida man was killed over the weekend when a giant bird with long claws on each foot, killed its owner after he fell in the backyard of his Gainesville home.

The large, flightless bird is called a cassowary and it is native to Australia and New Guinea.

This cassowary attacked and killed its owner Marvin Hajos when the man fell on his farm, authorities said Saturday.

Hajos was apparently breeding the birds, state wildlife officials said.

“My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers cassowaries Class II wildlife, meaning they pose a danger to humans and are subject to specific cage requirements. Owners must also have “substantial experience” with the animals, the commission says.

Class II is the same category as alligators, honey badgers and clouded leopards, while Class I includes more traditional predators such as a lions, tigers and bears.

Cassowaries are similar to emus and stand up to 6 feet tall and weigh up to 130 pounds  with black body feathers and distinctive, bright blue heads and necks.

It can run up to 31 mph through dense underbrush, jump almost 7 feet into the air and is a skilled swimmer, so it can deftly fend off threats, according to the San Diego zoo.

“The cassowary is rightfully considered the most dangerous bird in the world!” the zoo says. “Each 3-toed foot has a dagger-like claw on the inner toe that is up to 4 inches long! The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick.”

Cassowaries are eaten in parts of New Guinea. The birds are not raised for food in the U.S., but are sought after by collectors of exotic birds, according to authorities.

 

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