Dead Duck Day 2013, an illustrated report

Dead Duck Day 2013, a general view. (photo Garry Bakker)Wednesday, June 5th 2013 was the 18th Dead Duck Day. At exactly 17:55h about 50 people gathered just outside the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam. Kees Moeliker revealed two signs, attached to the museum building, that explain why people come together there since 1996. There is a sign in Dutch, and one in English:

De barst in de ruit hierboven markeert de plek waar een wilde eend (Anas platyrhynchos) zich op 5 juni 1995 om 17:55 uur doodvloog. Op de grond werd de dode mannetjeseend direct bestegen door een (levende) soortgenoot van hetzelfde geslacht. De paring die volgde, duurde 75 minuten. Dit voorval is bekend geworden als ‘het eerste geval van homoseksuele necrofilie bij de wilde eend’. Het slachtoffer is in het museum te bezichtigen.

Elk jaar op 5 juni om 17:55 uur komen we hier samen om ‘Dead Duck Day’ te vieren. Iedereen is welkom! Deze korte ceremonie herdenkt de dramatische dood van de eend en vraagt aandacht voor de miljarden andere vogels die tegen glazen gebouwen om het leven komen.

The crack in the window (above) marks the spot where, on June 5th 1995 at 17:55h, a mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) died after colliding with the building. Immediately after falling to the ground, the dead duck was mounted by a (live) duck — also of the male sex. The copulation took 75 minutes, and became known in the scientific community as ‘the first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard’. The victim is on display in the museum.

Each year on June 5th at 17:55h, on this spot, we gather to celebrate ‘Dead Duck Day’. Please join us! This short ceremony commemorates the dramatic death of the duck — and the tragedy of billions of other birds that die from colliding with glass buildings.

The crack mentioned above (and pictured right below) is not a real crack. It is an artist impression [thanks to Erik Sandifort] of a crack caused by a duck that flew in to the window, with great speed.

Kees Moeliker points at the artificial crack. (photo Garry Bakker)

Then two recent papers about remarkable animal behaviour were highlited: Russell et al. 2012 [Dr. George Marray Levick (1876-1956): unpublished notes on the sexual habits of the Adélie penguin] and Izzo et al. 2012 [Functional necrophilia: a profitable anuran reproductive strategy]. Both papers were praised for their (graphic) content.Dead Duck Day 2013: introducing Carin Bondar. (photo Garry Bakker)

With great pleasure Kees Moeliker introduced Dr Carin Anne Bondar, who had send in the Dead Duck Day 2013 Message. Her contribution, best characterised as a poem, was read in the original English language and in a bad Dutch translation (that won’t be reproduced here).

Ode to the dead duck

It’s an unfortunate way to die – yet, perhaps it’s one of the least painless. Oh poor duck, your brain is not large. Your last thoughts were likely of the simple sort, you had no idea of your imminent doom. Did you deserve to be repeatedly raped as you lay lifeless on the cold ground? No. However, the animal kingdom can be a dark and scary place. As the many female ducks that you undoubtedly raped during your life will attest, sex is not always consensual.

What should we interpret from your uniquely horrifying demise? Your sexual practices are so very sordid and unfair, is this the energy of the universe sending a message to male ducks everywhere? Despite the anthropomorphisms that I want to put upon you, the biologist in me will not allow it. Yes, you raped females, repeatedly. But no, you shouldn’t be punished for it. Unfortunately, that’s just what ducks do. There is no room for romance and love in the world of the duck.

So you died. A prospecting (albeit confused) male came along and took a shot. Actually, he took several. I take comfort in knowing that your life (and death) experiences were not in vain. The kinky rituals of the animal kingdom deserve a great deal more study than they currently receive, and your story has paved the way for an increased awareness of animal necrophilia across the globe. We salute you.

Carin Anne Bondar

The short ceremony ended with a presentation of two products that prevent bird-window strikes: Ornilux and Feather Friendly. Both products are now Dead Duck Day Approved. In company of the duck, the attendees walked over to the famous Tai Wu Restaurant, were a six-course duck dinner was waiting. The next day, June 6th, some leftovers of the meal (debilled, roasted duck heads) were preserved.

[All pictures by official Dead Duck Day Photographer Garry Bakker] Dead Duck day 2013, a general view . (photo Garry Bakker)Dead Duck Day 2013: revealing of the plaque. (photo GarryBakker)Dead DuckDay Dinner 2013. (photo Kees Moeliker)

Join the 18th Dead Duck Day, on June 5th

dead duck day logoWednesday June 5th it is Dead Duck Day again. At exactly 17:55h we will honor the mallard duck that became known to science as the first (documented) ‘victim’ of homosexual necrophilia in that species. Please join for this short open-air ceremony next to the new wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam (the Netherlands) where the duck (now museum specimen NMR 9989-00232) has met his dramatic end.

Here is what we plan to do during the 18th Dead Duck Day:

  • Commemorating the life and death of NMR 9989-00232, and [new!] announcing exiting news about the duck specimen.
  • [new!] Reveal (1) a ‘plaque’ that marks the spot where the duck hit the building and died on June 5th 1995, and (2) expose a bilingual sign that tells what happened right after the duck had died.
  • Communicate recent observations of / publications on remarkable animal behavior, relating to the duck.

    Dr Carin Bondar will send in the Dead Duck Day Message.

    Dr Bondar will send in the DDD-Message.

  • Read the special Dead Duck Day Message, this year written by dr Carin Anne Bondar.
  • Discuss ways to prevent birds from colliding with glass (buildings).
  • After all this, everybody is invited to the traditional six-course duck dinner at the famous Tai Wu Restaurant.

Practical information

Dead Duck Day is open to the public and free of charge. The ceremony is in the open air on the lawn next to the north wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam in the Museumpark (address: Westzeedijk 345, 3015 AA  Rotterdam). We start at exactly 17:55h. Kees Moeliker will do most of the talking, in Dutch and in English (almost simultaneously). Usually, at about 18:25h we walk to the restaurant for the six-course duck dinDead Duck Day 2009ner. Arrival at the Tai Wu restaurant (address: Mauritsweg 24-26, 3012 JR Rotterdam) at about 18:45h. If you want to join the dinner, please make your own reservations (telephone +31 [0]10 4330818; code Dead Duck Day 死鸭日]. Dinner and beverages are at your own expense. [We still try to find a sponsor].

Here is the announcement of Dead Duck Day om the TED blog.

Dead Duck Day is organised by the European Bureau of Improbable Research and the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.

Dead Duck Day is approaching

dead duck day logoWednesday June 5th it is Dead Duck Day again. At exactly 17:55h we will honour the mallard that is known to science as the first (documented) ‘victim’ of homosexual necrophilia in that species. Please join for this short open air ceremony next to the new wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, where the duck (now museum specimen NMR 9989-00232) has met his dramatic end. We will discuss (new) ways to prevent birds from colliding with glass (buildings) and the special Dead Duck Day Message of a prominent (duck) scientist will be read. [Here is my recent TED-talk, about a.o. Dead Duck Day] [Here is this years programme]

Dead Duck Day 2012 [photo Vera de Kok]I failed to report about last years Dead Duck Day (the 17th), so to get you into the mood, here is what happened on June 5th 2012. About 45 people attended, including two visitors from London. For the first time in history three live mallards (one female and two males) were present. About an hour before the ceremony started the female appeared on site, and during the event two male mallards joined. At 18:16h, right in front of the audience, the mallards caught full attention:  one male mounted the female and started to copulate. It looked like a clear case of heterosexual extra-pair copulation. [video, by Janneke Reedijk]

Then I read the Dead Duck Day 2012 Message, written by ornithologist Tim Birkhead

Science favours the prepared mind, they say and scientists achieveProfessor Tim Birkhead fame, or infamy, in different ways. Kees, your prepared mind allowed you to exploit a chance observation that made you and a homosexual pair of ducks famous. Somewhat less ignoble and less press-worthy, but no less exciting are the heterosexual encounters I’ve spent my career pursuing. The male Red-billed Buffalo Weaver of southern Africa for example, has a permanently erect false penis, the only bird to be so endowed. It also has an extraordinarily protracted copulation – 30 minutes, compared with just a couple seconds for most small birds. On top of all this, the Buffalo Weaver is also the only bird that experiences orgasm as it ejaculates. What’s going on? What indeed! When we first decided to study the Buffalo Weavers, a colleague suggested we might like to study those he had at his zoo. We went to have a look, but zoo population consisted only of males – yes, I know what you are thinking, but no, we decided against it. However, and as we walked through the giant aviary, one of the male Buffalo Weavers was copulating vigorously with a bemused-looking dove whose sex we could not ascertain. Have a wonderful celebration!

Tim Birkhead

Here are two pictures of the copulation that took place during the Dead Duck Day 2012 festivities (click on the picture for moving images).

rape Dead Duck Day 2012 [Janneke Reedijk]Post-copulatory behaviour, Dead Duck Day 2012 [Janneke Reedijk]

My TED talk is online

The timing could not have been better: today, April 1, is the perfect day to post my TED 2013 talk. It is online now, on


A bit of history about this TED-talk can be read here, and there. All about the duck: here and Dead Duck Day: link.

Het is weer bijna Dead Duck Day

Dinsdag 5 juni is het weer Dead Duck Day, de zeventiende om precies te zijn. Het European Bureau van Improbable Research en het Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam nodigen belangstellenden uit om zich om 17.55 uur precies te verzamelen in het Museumpark te Rotterdam op het gazon naast de glazen nieuwbouw van Het Natuurhistorisch. Daar zal ik (misschien) enige relevante passages voorlezen uit mijn boek ‘De eendenman‘, (zeker) aandacht vragen voor de miljarden vogels die jaarlijks tegen glazen gebouwen om het leven komen, en (ook zeker) de traditionele Dead-Duck-Day-Message van een vooraanstaand wetenschapper voordragen. Dit jaar heeft Tim Birkhead (bird behaviorist en scientific historian, auteur van onder andere ‘Bird Sense: What it’s Like to be a Bird’) een boodschap ingestuurd.

Voor de 17e keer wordt ook de Wilde Eend herdacht die zich op 5 juni 1995 (om 17.55 uur precies) dood vloog tegen de glazen gevel van het museum en inmiddels wereldwijd bekendheid geniet als het eerste ‘slachtoffer’ van homoseksuele necrofilie bij deze soort. De legendarische opgezette eend zal hiervoor bij grote uitzondering uit het museum worden gehaald.

Belangstellenden zijn van harte welkom om deze korte openluchtceremonie bij te wonen.

Na afloop wordt volgens traditie (en voor eigen kosten) ‘menu D‘ – het zesgangen-eendenmenu – genuttigd bij restaurant Tai Wu, Mauritsweg 24-25, Rotterdam. Aankomst bij Tai Wu rond 18.45 uur.

Tijd & locatie: dinsdag 5 juni 2012, om 17.55 uur precies, Museumpark, op het gazon bij de Zwarte Kraai naast de glazen nieuwbouw van het Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, adres: Westzeedijk 345 (Museumpark), 3015 AA Rotterdam.

Lees hier meer over de geschiedenis van Dead Duck Day. En hier is een verslag van de 16e Dead Duck Day, in 2011.

Dead Duck Day 2011: een verslag

Dead Duck Day 2011 vond plaats bij mooi weer en in aanwezigheid van ruim dertig eendenliefhebbers en andere belangstellenden. Een deel kwam zelfs van buiten Rotterdam. Dank aan alle aanwezigen! Het was de zestiende keer dat de dramatische dood van de wilde eend die in de literatuur te boek staat als het eerste slachtoffer van homoseksuele necrofilie bij die soort, werd herdacht op de plaats waar het allemaal gebeurde op 5 juni 1995, om 17.55 uur: onder de glazen noordgevel van het Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam. [Lees hier meer over de geschiedenis van Dead Duck Day.]

In een kort moment van bezinning werden de miljarden vogels herdacht die in het afgelopen jaar wereldwijd tegen glas om het leven zijn gekomen. Daarna las ik een passage voor uit het boek ‘Genot als kompasvan David J. Linden (Uitgeverij Nieuwezijds, ISBN 978 90 5712 314 6, vertaling van ‘The Compass of PleasureViking, New York 2011) die geïnspireerd was door mijn publicatie over het voorval van 5 juni 1995:

 … In het licht van al deze bevindingen gaat onze conclusie een beetje tegen onze intuitie in. De mens is seksueel niet uniek vanwege kinky of verboden gedrag – die dingen komen ook vaak voor bij onze verwanten onder de zoogdieren. Het is eerder ons conventionele voortplantingsgedrag dat volledig verschilt van dat van andere dieren.

Toen was het tijd voor (het voorlezen van) de traditionele boodschap van een vooraanstaande (eenden)onderzoeker. Dit jaar was dat Patricia Brennan, van de University of Massachussetts in Amherst, USA. Zij was de eerste die de functionele anantomie van de geslachtsorganen van eenden helder in beeld bracht in een serie recente publicaties in PLoS One, Journal of Avian Biology en Proc. Royal Society B. Hier is haar DDD-message:

Dear Dead Duck Day Friends — I am really glad to have the opportunity to send a message to celebrate this momentous occasion. Since I began working on waterfowl a few years ago, I realized the importance of the original observation and report that prompted this celebration, namely that it made my research on genital evolution appear downright mainstream.  Although I know that I have shocked some people with my reports on the nuances of duck genitalia wars, there is no way that I could top the homosexual necrophilia report. I thank Kees then for showing that no matter how crazy my papers may seem, there is already someone way crazier out there.

I will happily attest that there is a something wonderful about working with the dark side of duck sex life:  People love the stuff.  I had no idea that putting together ducks and sex would be so incredibly popular.  In addition to the typical requests for reprints, photographs, interviews and comments, perhaps most amazing has been the popularity of the videos we posted in You Tube.  For those of you who have not yet seen them they show the explosive eversion of duck penises, which evert at speeds of over 1.3 m/s.  The videos are very graphic and incredibly cool. [watch here and here]  So far the videos have been watched by almost 500,000 people.

Perhaps ‘DuckLover55′ has watched 100,000 of those, but all the same I feel very privileged to have the chance of reaching the general public in such numbers to remind them that nature can be amazing and nasty all at the same time.  The way I see it, if I manage to get people interested in evolution and its often horrific consequences, then I have done my job. Dead Duck Day celebrates this same idea: shocking consequences of evolution are memorable and people become immediately interested.

I am thrilled to join your celebration from afar.

Patty Brennan, June 5, 2011

Na de korte ceremonie genoten veertien liefhebbers van het gezamenlijke traditionele ‘zes-gangen-eendenmenu’ bij het nabij gelegen restaurant Tai Wu.

Kom naar de 15e Dead Duck Day

Kom zaterdag 5 juni 2010 om 17.55 uur precies naar het gazon naast het nieuwbouwpaviljoen van het Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam. We vieren dan de 15e ‘Dead Duck Day’. Iedereen is welkom bij de korte openluchtceremonie, en – na afloop – bij het nuttigen van ‘Menu D’ (het zesgangen-eendenmenu) in restaurant Tai Wu (Mauritsweg 24-25).

Dead Duck Day gedenkt de dramatische dood van de wilde eend tegen de glazen gevel van het museum op 5 juni 1995, 17:55 uur, en vraagt aandacht voor de miljarden vogels die jaarlijks wereldwijd tegen glas om het leven komen. Ik zal enige passende passages uit ‘De eendenman‘ voorlezen. De eend zal worden gelucht.

Dead Duck Day 2009

Friday, June 5th 2009, was the 14th annual Dead Duck Day. At 17.55h sharp (Rotterdam Time) a nice mix of duck enthusiasts, other bird lovers, curious people and readers of (my book) ‘De eendenman’ (totaling five nationalities) gathered next to the glass pavilion of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam for the short open-air ceremony. Besides commemorating the necro-duck, I asked special attention to the global problem of bird-glass collision. Professor Daniel Klem, Jr – who has studied the subject for more than 35 years – had send a special message which I read. When it was all over, several participants joined the traditional six-course duck dinner at the famous Tai Wu restaurant.

This is the first special Dead Duck Day Message, written and send in by Daniel Klem Jr:

My dear friends in The Netherlands,

In celebration of Dead Duck Day I have been asked to offer a brief message about the problem of bird strikes at windows. For over 35 years I have studied avian mortality at windows, and my investigations reveal that birds behave as if clear and reflective panes are invisible to them. Fatal strikes can occur wherever birds and windows co-exist, and based on extensive evidence I claim that this source of human-associated avian mortality is greater than any other, with the exception of habitat destruction; destroy a bird’s habitat and you destroy its ability to survive. Certainly, more birds are killed the world over flying into windows than are killed at power lines, wind turbines, pesticides, oil spills and pollution in general, and even from domestic cats. To prevent these unintended and unwanted tragedies, we humans must transform windows into obstacles that birds will see and avoid. The use of ultraviolet (UV) signals to alert birds to the window hazard has recently been shown to be a potentially elegant solution because birds see UV and we humans do not. The June issue of The Wilson Ornithological Journal will publish [PDF] the results of my research over the past four years describing the prevention of bird-window collisions, to include the effectiveness of UV signals and other techniques.

To all who have gathered here at this special celebration to honor the original Dead Duck at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, I thank you for your interest in this very important conservation issue for birds and people. Please join me not only this day but hereafter in doing whatever you can to save more bird lives from windows.

All my best always; I am sincerely and respectfully yours, Dan

(Daniel Klem, Jr., Sarkis Acopian Professor of Ornithology and Conservation Biology, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

Here are some pictures, kindly taken by Jaap van Leeuwen and Garry Bakker. Thank you all for coming. See you next year for the 15th Dead Duck Day, organised by the Natural History Museum Rotterdam and the European Bureau of Improbable Research.DDD2009 Dan Klem