the duck

The dead duck story never dies. Nor should it. It’s a good story.
Marc Abrahams, 31 March 2013, on Twitter

Deinsea 8 Figure 2

In June 1995 I witnessed a hitherto hidden aspect in the life of the mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos). It took me six years to decide to write it up and publish it. Here is the reference and the abstract:

Moeliker, C.W., 2001 – The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae) – DEINSEA 8: 243-247 [ISSN 0932-9308]. Published 9 November 2001

On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam and died. An other drake mallard ‘raped’ the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.

Here is the full paper (if you want to read the whole story) and here is my classic piece about it (in Dutch) in NRC Handelsblad.

Stonehenge, with the duckMy ‘duck paper’ was noticed, amongst others, by the Board of Governors of the Ig Nobel prize. In 2003, they awarded me the Ig Nobel prize in the field of biology. This award is given annually at Harvard University to ten (groups of) researchers in different fields of science for ‘achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think’. Since I won the Ig Nobel prize for my duck paper, my life changed quite a bit. I became deeply involved in Improbable Research, the US-based organization that awards the Ig Nobel prizes and publishes the science-humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Together with my stuffed duck (the first-ever recorded victim of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard, kept in the collection of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam), I lectured about ‘the duck’ in the US, the UK, France, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, India and the Netherlands. Many people were inspired by my observation of the mallards, and I received (and still receive) numerous reports of homosexual, necrophiliac or other remarkable behavior in birds and other creatures. If – somewhere on this planet – an animal misbehaves, I hear about it.

Each year since 1996, on June 5th at 17.55h, next to the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, there is a short ceremony to commemorate the fate of the duck and discuss (new) ways to prevent birds from colliding with glass windows and buildings. This event is called ‘Dead Duck Day’. You are welcome to join the ever growing number of people who come to celebrate Dead Duck Day. Afterwards, we walk to Tai Wu, a local Chinese restaurant, to have a six course duck dinner. See www.deadduckday.com for details and a short history.

30 thoughts on “the duck

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