Dead Duck Day 2014, an illustrated report

Dead_Duck_Day-Anjes_Gesink-2014Thursday June 5th 2014 was the date of the 19th Dead Duck Day. After a rainy day, the late afternoon brought a clear sky and at 17.55h when about 40 people gathered right below the Dead Duck Memorial Plaque of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, the sun was shining. Everything went as planned.

First, Kees Moeliker brought back memories of June 5th 1995 and reminded the audience that the duck (the first documented victim of homosexual necrophilia in Anas platyrhynchos) is part of the special exhibit ‘Dode dieren met een verhaal‘ (Dead animals that tell a tale) inside the museum. He then told that, on Dead Duck Day 2012, he failed to report a then recent case of necrophilia from Brazil: ‘Necrophiliac behavior in the “cururu” toad, Rhinella jimi Steuvax, 2002, (Anura, Bufonidae) from Northeastern Brazil’ (Britto et al., 2012 in North-Western Journal of Zoology 8[2]: 365-366).

In honor of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera‘ Kees Moeliker blew a duck call, and announced that he would search for funding to have a performance of this mini-opera on site, at the 20th Dead Duck Day in 2015.

Dead_Duck_Day-Anjes_Gesink-2014As a recent relevant paper of interest to Dead Duck Day, Moeliker recommended ‘Bird–building collisions in the United States: Estimates of annual mortality and species vulnerability‘ by Scott R. Loss, Tom Will, Sara S. Loss & Peter P. Marra in The Condor 116 (1): 8-23 [2014].  Then he showed and recommended the new book of Menno Schilthuizen Nature’s Nether Regions that devotes almost two full pages to ‘The Duck’ and even to Dead Duck Day.

Linda_Lombardi_devilduckhuntThis year’s special Dead Duck Day Message was send in by Linda Lombardi, (pictured here) author of the book (and blog) Animals Behaving Badly. Kees Moeliker read it aloud:

Human beings have the strange idea that no other animal has sex solely for pleasure. But if our fellow creatures only care about the perpetuation of the species, why do they do it in so many ways that don’t result in babies? From manatees to manakins, all kinds of animals get it on with members of the same sex, and many have figured out that if you’ve got a stick, a rock, or a prehensile tail, who needs a partner?

As I collected material like this for my book Animals Behaving Badly from the comfort of my office, I came to admire the people who observe and report the sordid truth about the sex lives of the animal kingdom. When I read about a black-winged stilt pleasuring itself with a piece of driftwood, twenty or thirty times at a go, every thirty seconds, I thought about the researcher who carefully recorded this data. Were her feet wet? Was she regretting her decision not to go to medical school instead?

But no one inspired me more than the man who had the fortitude to observe for a full seventy-five minutes the spectacle of the homosexual rape of a dead duck – and then, because it was time for dinner, said, Enough is enough, collected his specimen, and went home. Kees Moeliker knows that if we all waited to eat till animals stopped behaving badly, we’d starve to death. And if that’s their wicked plan to drive the human race to extinction, he won’t let them get away with it. [Linda Lombardi, June 5th 2014]

Jacob_van_Gijs_Dead_Duck_Day-Anjes_Gesink-2014Then, for the first time in history of Dead Duck Day, there was an invited speaker: Jacob van Gijs, architect at MVRDV (pictured above). He spoke about the use of glass in modern architecture and showed the surprised audience what might well become a novelty in constructing buildings: a brick completely made of glass.

a_glass_brick_DDD_2014About 20 people, including the invited speaker, joined the traditional Dead Duck Day Dinner at the Tai Wu Restaurant.

Pictures that illustrate this post are by Anjès Gesink.

Join the 19th Dead Duck Day, on June 5th 2014

the official Dead Duck Day LogoThursday June 5th 2014 it is Dead Duck Day again. At exactly 17:55h we will honour 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), right below the Dead Duck Memorial Plaque, where that duck (now museum specimen NMR 9989-00232) has met his dramatic end.

Here is what we plan to do during the 19th Dead Duck Day

  • Commemorate the life and death of NMR 9989-00232, the mallard-duck that now has a special exhibit in the museum.
  • Review (maybe even play part of) ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ composed and conducted by Daniel Gillingwater and performed by soprano Sarah Redmond and the Egde Ensemble. The world-premiere of this mini-opera was 14 March 2014 at Impericover Nature's Nether Regionsal College, London, as part of the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK. (click here for a report)
  • Communicate recent observations of or publications relating to remarkable animal behaviour and/or birds colliding with glass buildings.
  • Honour the new book by Menno Schilthuizen ‘Nature’s Nether Regions‘ and its Dutch translation Darwins Peepshow (that will be launched ‘as we speak’ in Naturalis Biodiversity Centrer, Leiden). This book devoted almost two pages to ‘The duck’ and Dead Duck Day.
  • Read the special Dead Duck Day Message, this year written by Linda Lombardi, author of the book ‘Animals Behaving Badly’.
  • Linda Lombardi.

    Linda Lombardi.

    Hear about the use of glass in modern architecture from Jacob van Rijs (MVRDV), and discuss ways to prevent birds from colliding with glass (buildings).

  • After all this, everybody is invited to the traditional six-course (dead) 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, right below the Dead Duck Memorial Plaque [pictured below], 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 dinner. 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.

Dead Duck Memorial Sign, 2013

Dead Duck Day is organized by the European Bureau of Improbable Research and the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, this year in cooperation with the 6th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR 2014 – Urban by Nature -).

 

La Ciudad de las Ideas

From 7 till 9 November 2013 I was part of an incredible event in Puebla, Mexico, called ‘La Ciudad de las Ideas‘, ‘a festival of bright minds, a celebration of humanity’s creativity and curiosity’ as the organizers call it. About 60 speakers and artists from all over the world performed for an audience of over 3000, called Ideasta’s. I feel privileged to have spoken there about ‘The Duck, his Mate, and the Pubic Lice’.

A nice wrap-up of my (12 minute) talk was made by Peter Durand of Alphachimp Learning Systems. It is depicted here:

by Peter Durand, Puebla, Mexico, November 2013

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 ted.com:

TEDclip

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