The Dodo and Discovery of this Bird

The Dodo and Discovery of this Bird

Early Dodo Pictures

Further Dodo History

Extinction of the Dodo and the Bird in Modern History

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The name Dodo is derived from the Portugues word  Doudo, meaning a simpleton, the Portuguese being the first to discover this bird in Mauritius.  It was between 50cm to a meter in height, with a weight of 13 to 25 kg.  Being unable to fly, this unusual bird seemed to exclusively inhabit the Mauritius and Reunion Islands in the Indian ocean, but is now sadly extinct.

The Dodo mainly lived on fruits and seeds, and made its nest on the ground.   It is usually described as an extremely fat bird with stubby wings.  This traditionally recognised fat appearance, however,  is probably the result of animals which were overfed and came as provisions on ships to Europe.  In their natural habitat, the Dodo was quite possibly a slimmer and relatively more atheletic bird.

The first Dodo arrived in Europe in 1599.  As well as the bird being often used for food, its eggs were eaten in great numbers by sailors.

Discovery of the Dodo

The exact year that the Portuguese discovered the Dodo is not certain, but was probably in 1507 according to M. Codine in his Mémoire géographique sur la mer des Indes, chapter vii, published in Paris in 1868.  The Portuguese originally called the bird Cerne, after one of their ships so named from an island mentioned by Pliny (Hist. Nat. vi. 36; x. 9), though many authors have insisted that the island was known to the seamen of that nation as Ilha do Cisne, meaning Island of the Swan.  This name of the island is possibly a corruption of Cerne, and so-given as a result of the seamen discovering the island full of large sized fowls which were described as similar to swans although not aquatic.

However, the original discovery is unfortunately lost to the proverbial mists of time, and no definite assertions can be made regarding the island or its inhabitants (of which none were human) until the year 1598 when, under the captainship of Jacob Cornelisz van Neck, the Dutch arrived and renamed the island Mauritius after Prince Maurits of  Orange-Nassau, the son of William of Orange.  A description of the journey to the island was published in 1601 (although an earlier original publication date is possible).  In this, birds which appear to have been Dodos were detailed as being as large as swans and having big heads, a few curly feathers on the tail and no wings.  They were named Walghvogels by the Dutch.  Although this word has been spelled in a number of different ways, it is designated as meaning "nauseous birds".  It is thought that this name was given due to the the Dutch having discovered that whatever method of cooking them they used, they could find no way of making them palatable.  Despite this, the Dutch carried Dodos in their ships in order to have a good reserve of food.  A different, and considered by some to be better, reason for the name is the explanation that the island was abundantly populated by animals (and plants) which provided much better tasting food than the Dodo, even though the breast of the Dodo was of a reasonable taste and tender.
Next...Early Dodo Pictures.


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