15 Facts About The Dodo Bird

Photo by BazzaDaRambler – Oxford University Museum of Natural History on Wikipedia

Imagine a bird that vanished from the Earth’s surface in the blink of an eye, leaving behind only echoes of its existence. That’s the dodo bird—an emblem of extinction that disappeared 300 years ago. But don’t dismiss it as just another vanished species. The dodo holds profound lessons for our efforts to protect endangered animals today, and its story unveils the intricate tapestry of island ecosystems and their unique inhabitants. Here are some facts about the dodo bird that you need to know!

Dodo Birds Only Lived on Mauritius

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Did you know that dodo birds lived in almost total isolation? It’s fascinating! Imagine this: these unique birds only called the island of Mauritius in the vast Indian Ocean their home. What’s even more remarkable? They never ventured to the nearby islands off the eastern coast of Africa. Why? Well, because they couldn’t fly! The dodo’s flightless nature kept them grounded, preventing them from exploring beyond their cozy island haven.

The Dodo’s Other Name: The ‘Wallowbird’

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Within just 64 years, the dodo bird went from being named to disappearing from existence. But here’s the kicker—during that time, there was a whirlwind of confusion surrounding its identity! Picture a Dutch captain calling it the “wallowbird” while Portuguese sailors somehow mistook it for a penguin.
And to add to the mystery, the word “dodo” itself has an uncertain origin—some say it means “sluggard,” while others argue it could mean “crazy.”

Dodo Birds Laid Just One Egg

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Imagine this: the dodo bird, living in a world without natural enemies, had a rather luxurious lifestyle regarding reproduction. Unlike other birds that lay multiple eggs to boost their chances of survival, dodo females took a different route—they laid just one egg at a time.
But here’s where things get interesting. This one-egg-per-dodo policy seemed like a winning strategy until some Dutch settlers showed up and raided their nests.

Dodos Picked Strange Nest Spots

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While most birds opt for tree-top living, the dodos went against the norm and set up their nests right on the ground. Why, you ask? Well, the dodos couldn’t fly, so tree nests weren’t their style.
What’s fascinating is that they didn’t need the high-flying protection because natural predators were nowhere to be found in their island paradise of Mauritius. It’s like the dodos had their own ground-level haven, living life by their rules!

Dodos Ate Stones in Their Unusual Diet


Imagine a buffet fit for the dodo bird – seeds, nuts, bulbs, roots, fallen fruit, and even a seafood delight of palm fruit, shellfish, and crabs! That’s right, these feathered friends had quite the diverse palate. And their diet isn’t all that different from our modern crowned pigeons. But here’s the kicker – dodos used gizzard stones to crush and digest their food to power through this feast, a technique as fascinating as their culinary choices!

Dodos Had No Predators Before Humans

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Picture this: in the pre-modern era, the dodo bird lived a life seemingly untouched by threats. Its island home lacked the usual suspects of predators—no menacing mammals, reptiles, or even large insects.
Can you imagine the blissful ignorance of these trusting birds? They’d waddle right up to armed Dutch settlers, completely unaware that danger lurked. Little did they know, these settlers saw them as nothing more than a delectable meal for their cats, dogs, and monkeys.

Sailors Played a Role in Dodo’s Disappearance


Imagine a paradise island called Mauritius, where dodo birds roamed freely, feasting on plentiful food without many foes to fear. But here’s where things get tricky: unlike other critters, dodos didn’t see humans as a threat, making them sitting ducks for hunters. When sailors docked on Mauritius in 1598, they saw dodos as tasty meals and hunted them down. Sadly, they didn’t stop until every last dodo vanished by 1681.

The Dodo Couldn’t Fly, Called ‘Secondarily Flightless’

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Once upon a time, the dodo bird’s ancestors, who were like big pigeons, landed on their dreamy island home. But here’s the twist: as they settled in, they gradually lost their ability to fly and grew as big as turkeys! This not-so-flying thing or what experts call “Secondary flightlessness” isn’t just a dodo deal – it’s a common theme in bird evolution. Penguins, ostriches, and even chickens have been involved in this action.

Dodos Couldn’t Fly, but They Could Run

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Don’t be fooled by the quirky looks of the dodo! Here’s a fun fact: these birds were actually pretty speedy runners. Even though we don’t have direct evidence from when dodos roamed the Earth, some scientists today figured out that dodos could run quickly by checking out their bones and leg sizes. So, while they might seem goofy, these birds could definitely hustle when they wanted to!

The Dodo Bird Didn’t Taste Like Chicken


Despite the indiscriminate clubbing to which they fell victim at the hands of Dutch settlers, dodo birds weren’t particularly tasty. Contrary to expectations, they didn’t taste like chicken at all. However, with super limited dining options in the 17th century, the sailors who set foot on Mauritius made the most of their circumstances. They ate as much of the clubbed dodo carcasses as their palates could take and then saved the remnants using salt.

The Nicobar Pigeon: Closest Dodo Relative


Scientists have peeked into the genes of preserved dodo specimens and found something really fascinating. The dodo’s closest living relative is a smaller bird called the Nicobar pigeon, which flies around in the southern Pacific. There’s also another relative, now gone forever, called the Rodrigues solitaire. It lived on an island called Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean. Sadly, it faced the same sad fate as its super famous cousin, the dodo.

The Dodo Bird Achieved Fame in Stories

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Back in Victorian times, folks were really curious about dodo birds. Even Lewis Carroll, the famous writer, put them in his book Alice in Wonderland. But here’s the fun part: in the story, the dodos are shown as serious and smart, not like how people usually think of them. It’s like a cool twist on what we thought we knew about these birds!

The Dodo Became a Valued Product


If fortune smiles upon you and you find yourself on the shores of Mauritius, you’ll be greeted by dodos at every turn. Well, not the living kind, mind you, but rather replicas and images abound wherever your gaze falls. A lesser-known tidbit about the dodo bird is its presence within Mauritius’ thriving tourism sector. The iconic image of the dodo has been used as an irresistible lure for tourists exploring this island haven.

The Dodo’s Appearance Was Only Confirmed Recently

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Before cameras were invented, it was really hard to know exactly what the dodo looked like. There were few bones left behind either, which made it even trickier. So, for a long time, people could only guess what dodos were like based on stories and amateur drawings. But in 2007, things changed for good. That’s when someone found a whole dodo skeleton. Finally, we got a better idea of what these birds were really like!

It Might Be Possible to Bring Back the Dodo

brown and white dodo bird painting
Photo by McGill Library on Unsplash

De-extinction is like a science project aiming to bring back animals that are no longer around. For the dodo bird, there are just a few leftovers preserved, but they might have some bits of its soft parts and DNA. Luckily, the dodo’s genes are similar to its modern relatives like the Nicobar pigeon, so scientists think they can find a way to bring it back using a different bird as a parent.