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Temporal range: Late Holocene
Dodo reconstruction at the
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Columbiformes
Family: Columbidae
Subfamily: Raphinae
Genus: Raphus
Brisson, 1760
Species: R. cucullatus
Binomial name
Raphus cucullatus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Former range (in red)
Drawings of the dodo from the travel journal of VOC-ship 'Gelderland' (1601–1603)

The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct species of flightless bird. Like many other island birds, they lost the power of flight because it was no advantage where they lived. Dodos were in the same family as the pigeon, and were endemic (only lived on) the island of Mauritius. The Dodo is one of the first species known to have died because of humans, Dodos have been extinct since the late 17th century.

The name Dodo

The history of the word Dodo is not clear. The Dutch captain Wybrand van Warwijck discovered the island and the bird in 1598. He called the bird walgvogel, meaning "disgusting bird" because the meat was unpleasant to eat. Four years later, the Dutch captain Willem van Westsanen used the word Dodo for the first time.[1]

The Encarta Dictionary and the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology say "Dodo" is a Portuguese word, coming from doido. It means "fool" or "crazy". Another idea is that dodo was a copy of the bird's own call, a two-note pigeon like sound, "doo-doo".[2] In 1606 Cornelis de Jonge wrote an important description of the Dodo, and of other animal and plants on the island.[3]


The Dodo was a large bird and weighed about 50 lb (23 kg). They had grey feathers and yellow feet.[4] Their big hooked bill was a green/yellow color.[5] It had short wings that were only stubs.[5] They ate fruit, seeds and nuts.[4] Portuguese sailors said that they saw the Dodos eating fish. They also ate rocks and stones which might have helped them digest food.[6]


The dodo was not scared of people which made it easy to hunt and kill. Dogs, cats, rats and pigs remained behind on the island and also killed the dodos. Because dodos built their nests on the ground, the new animals ate their eggs.[7] The forests were chopped down and the dodo lost its habitat. Within 80 years, the dodo was extinct.[5]

The Dodo has not been seen since 1681. There are no complete examples of the Dodo in the world. The last known stuffed bird was at Oxford University and was thrown out as rubbish. Only a foot and a head are left.[4] The American Museum of Natural History in New York has a skeleton showing.[4][5] It was put together out of bones from several different Dodos. The Natural History Museum of Mauritius has the only complete skeleton of a Dodo, found in a swamp.[6]


  1. Staub, France (1996): Dodo and solitaires, myths and reality. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Arts & Sciences of Mauritius 6: 89-122 HTML fulltext
  2. Quammen, David (1996): The song of the Dodo: island biogeography in an age of extinction. Touchstone, New York. ISBN 0-684-82712-3
  3. Staub, France. "Le musée du Dodo". Potomitan. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "BBC - h2g2 - The Dodo - an extinct bird". Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Dodo". Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Recently Extinct Animals - Species Info - Dodo". Retrieved 2009-03-09.
  7. Reilly, David. "Background: the tragedy of the Dodo (1598-1681)". Retrieved 2009-03-09.

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