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the dodo bird was a very rare and now extinct animal.

Dodo restoration
Vital statistics
Scientific Name Raphus cucullatus
Length 0.8 metres
Height 1 metre
Weight 20kg
Diet Herbivorous
Lived 1700s
Range Mauritius


The dodo was a large bird, measuring about a meter high and weighing perhaps 23 kilograms or more. The view of dodos as fat and clumsy, however, was probably brought about because the original illustrations were of captive and overfed specimens.

Its wings were small and vestigal because at the time, Mauritius had no predators on the land, so the dodo would have no need to fly. This ended up being a disadvantage when humans arrived.

The dodo's head had a large bill, which may have been brightly colored. Examination of the remaining feathers on one specimen suggests they were downy feathers instead of plumaceous.[1]

All assumptions and observations of the dodo's appearance come from illustrations made previously and written accounts, although they are not always accurate. One such account from the Van Neck expedition is as follows:

Blue parrots are very numerous there, as well as other birds; among which are a kind, conspicuous for their size, larger than our swans, with huge heads only half covered with skin as if clothed with a hood. These birds lack wings, in the place of which 3 or 4 blackish feathers protrude. The tail consists of a few soft incurved feathers, which are ash coloured. These we used to call 'Walghvogel', for the reason that the longer and oftener they were cooked, the less soft and more insipid eating they became. Nevertheless their belly and breast were of a pleasant flavour and easily masticated.

- Description of the dodo[2]

The "white dodo" of Réunion is now thought to be a misinterpretation of the Réunion Sacred Ibis or a similar bird.[3]


Dodos were originally thought to have evolved from vultures or ostriches, until they were shown to have been a type of ground dove in 1846[4], which has been confirmed by DNA analysis.[5]

Diet and Behavior[]

Only one source accounts the diet of the dodo, now lost:

These Burgmeesters are superb and proud. They displayed themselves to us with stiff and stern faces, and wide-open mouths. Jaunty and audacious of gait, they would scarcely move a foot before us. Their war weapon was their mouth, with which they could bite fiercely; their food was fruit; they were not well feathered but abundantly covered with fat. Many of them were brought onboard to the delight of us all.

- Unknown source[6]

The dodo is also known to have used gizzard stones.[7]

It is believed that dodos laid only one egg per clutch, in a grassy nest, within their coastal forest habitat.[8]


Discovery and extinction[]

When dodos were first recorded in 1598, the main appeal that they possessed was driven by cooking. Apparently their meat was tough but palatable, but not as good as that of the native pigeons.[9] Three or four live birds were taken off the island and brought to London.[10]

Although the dodo's relative fearlessness and inherent flightlessness would have made it easy prey to humans,[11] that was not the direct cause of the dodo's demise. Animals brought on ships, including pigs and rats, ate their eggs and trampled their nests while the forest around them was urbanized.[12] This was believed to have been a more severe effect than human hunting. All dodos had become extinct by 1681.[13]


All that remains of the dodo today are bones and dried heads or appendages. Many specimens have been destroyed since they became extinct, mainly because of decay or even because they were suspected of being hoaxes.[14]

Popular culture[]

Since the dodo first appeared in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it became a famous icon of extinction[15]---hence the saying "dead as a dodo".[16] They have appeared in advertisements, television shows (such as Primeval), and even the Mauritius coat of arms.


  1. Brom, T. G.; Prins, T. G. (1989). "Microscopic investigation of feather remains from the head of the Oxford dodo,Raphus cucullatus". Journal of Zoology 218 (2): 233. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1989.tb02535.x. edit
  2. Rothschild, Walter (1907). Extinct Birds. London: Hutchinson & Co. p. 172.
  4. Reinhardt, J. T. Nøjere oplysning om det i Kjøbenhavn fundne Drontehoved. Krøyer, Nat. Tidssk. IV., 1842-43, pp. 71-72. 2.
  5. Shapiro, Beth; Sibthorpe, Dean; Rambaut, Andrew; Austin, Jeremy; Wragg, Graham M.; Bininda-Emonds, Olaf R. P.; Lee, Patricia L. M. & Cooper, Alan (2002): Flight of the Dodo. Science 295: 1683. doi:10.1126/science.295.5560.1683 (HTML abstract) Free PDF Supplementary information
  6. Fuller, Errol: Dodo - From Extinction To Icon, 2002
  7. Fuller, Errol (2001). Extinct Birds (revised ed.). Comstock. ISBN 080143954X., pp. 96–97
  8. Fuller, Errol: Dodo - From Extinction To Icon, 2002
  9. A true report of the gainefull, prosperous, and speedy voiage to Iava in the East Indies, performed by a fleete of eight ships of Amsterdam: which set forth from Texell in Holland, the first of Maie 1598. Stilo Novo. Whereof foure returned againe the 19. of Iuly Anno 1599. in lesse thaen 15 moneths: the other foure went forward from Iava for the Moluccas[dead link]
  10. Hume, Julian P. (2006). "The history of the Dodo Raphus cucullatus and the penguin of Mauritius". Historical Biology 18 (2): 65–89. doi:10.1080/08912960600639400. ISSN 0891-2963. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  11. "Scientists pinpoint dodo's demise". BBC News (London). 2003-11-20. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
  12. Jonathan Fryer (2002-09-14). "Bringing the dodo back to life". BBC News (London). Retrieved 2006-09-07.
  13. Turvey, S.; Cheke, A. (2008). "Dead as a dodo: The fortuitous rise to fame of an extinction icon". Historical Biology 20 (2): 149. doi:10.1080/08912960802376199. edit
  15. Mayell, Hillary (2002-02-28). "Extinct Dodo Related to Pigeons, DNA Shows". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
  16. Steve Miller (2006-09-25). "First The Dodo, Now Full-Size SUV". Brand Week. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2006-09-26.