The 20th Dead Duck Day: a report

crowd_Dead-Duck-Day-3208-Anjes_Gesink-2015On June 5th, 2015, the 20th Dead Duck Day attracted a crowd of about 50 people. They gathered at the spot where it all began, right below the all glass facade of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam. At exactly 17:55h Kees Moeliker, in company of the stuffed duck (NMR 9989-00232), welcomed everybody. As all people more or less understood Dutch, he proceeded in that language. After a minute of silence on behalf of the duck and the btribute-cropped_Dead-Duck-Day-3236-Anjes_Gesink-2015_edited-1illions of other birds that have died in collision with glas building, Kees Moeliker payed a tribute to the recently deceased Robert W. Dickerman, the
ornithologist who first described (homosexual) necrophilia in a ground squirrel (in 1960) and coined the term ‘Davian Behavior’ for that – distinguishing it from necrophiliac behavior in humans. Bob Dickerman should be remembered as the man who gave necrophilia a good name.


Professor Menno Schilthuizen.

Then professor Menno Schilthuizen read the pages from is recent book ‘Nature’s Nether Regions‘ that are devoted to ‘the first case of homosexual necrophilia in de mallard’ – the reason of this annual gathering. He also presented his insights in the functional anatomy of duck genitals. Then there was an equally joyful announcement: the performance of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ at the Tête à Tête Opera Festival in Londen, 8/9 August 2015.

A thunderstorm, the first ever experienced in 20 years of Dead Duck Day, forced the crowd to take shelter in the Natural History Museum where ceremony proceeded smoothly, with the presentation of the new Dead Duck Day logo and the accompanying fashion line, designed by Mark Prinsen.


Mark Prinsen (left) shows the DDD fashion line.

This years necrophilia news originated from Azerbaijan. It concerns a free-ranging Central Asian Tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) that tried to mate with the smelly empty shell of a male congener. Stephen Butler witnessed this in his back yard and donated the shell to the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, where it bears catalogue number NMR 9988-00702. The carapax was shown to the audience, and so was the old shirt in which it was wrapped when the specimen reached the museum.

The special Dead Duck Day Message was written and send in by Anil Aggrawal, professor of forensic medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, and foremost expert on human necrophilia. It was read aloud, by Kees Moeliker:

Anil_Aggrawal_2015Necrophilia is a behaviour which reveals its unlimited curiosities almost regularly. Kees discovered a curiosity 20 years back. About a decade later as we were studying necrophiles from around the world, we discovered that it could be classified in 10 different types, starting from most innocuous “Role players” to the most dangerous “Exclusive necrophiles”. Gradually as we studied other paraphilias, it dawned upon us, that the very same classification could be extended to zoophiles too. Both studies were published in reputed journals. Were we on to something big? Do all paraphilic behaviors show same 10 gradations? Does a so-called “law of paraphilic equivalence” exist, which might state something to the effect that “all paraphilias are similar to one another, in as far as all of them exist on a continuum of increasing severity ranging from the most innocuous to the most dangerous?” Curiously as we studied more and more paraphilias with this objective in mind, we discovered that the law indeed was true. Most recently we have proved this in relation to even non-contact paraphilias, eg exhibitionism. For quite some time now, we had been thinking to bring together on one platform the necro-academics [my own term for scientists exploring this behavior] from around the world and publish their findings together in one book. Three academicians from around the world, including me got together a year back and were able to do exactly that. We got about 40 necro-academics from around the world and asked them to contribute their own experiences in the field of necrophilia in an anthology called ‘Understanding Necrophilia: A Global Multidisciplinary Approach’. Kees, to our honor, agreed and wrote an excellent chapter on necrophilia in the animal kingdom. I hope one day he discovers the 10 different kinds of necrophilia in the animal kingdom too, just as we have discovered it in humans. Necrophilia, thus, not only is a curious behavior, it is leading us on to new vistas in the study of paraphilic behavior.

The 20th Dead Duck Day ended with the traditional Dead Duck Day Dinner at the famous Tai Wu Restaurant, where about 35 people enjoyed each others company and good food. [all pictures, courtesy of Anjes Geesinkfood_Dead-Duck-Day-3314-Anjes_Gesink-2015


The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera, now at Tête à Tête – The Opera Festival, London 8 and 9 August 2015

“The two male singers will also be portraying the mallard ducks in question, through the medium of contemporary dance. A tasteful re-enactment of the duck display, mixing flowing, poetic body movements and extreme sexual violence.”
Daniel Gillingwater, composer

My duck call (book not related).

My duck call (book not related).

This weekend, August 8th and 9th, 2015 ‘Tête à Tête:The Opera Festival‘, King’s Cross, London (also known as The World’s Largest Festival of New Opera) will feature two live performances of probably the first-ever scientific paper that has been converted into an opera – The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera. The actual words of my classic Ig Nobel winning paper (on that subject) will be sung and the duck’s display re-enacted! For those lovers of opera who are not familiar with homosexual necrophilia in mallards or in any other organism, I will briefly introduce it (using classic images) and then join the ochestra to play a sometimes dominating instrument, the duck call. While I blow the flute(s), soprano Sarah Richmond will take over my role by singing the exact words of my 2001 paper, including ‘Rather startled, I watched …’ which is the final vivace section of a pseudo Mozartian aria.

Here is a bit of history of the try-out in 2014 and the deeper thoughts of the wonderful musicians who composed and sung the opera. Here’s a preview, in The Times (see PDF)

Seats are still available. The performances will take place on 8th and 9th August 2015 at Kings Place, London. Here’s how to get TICKETS.


Join the 20th Dead Duck Day: June 5th

DDD20 logo DEF DT (1)Friday June 5th, 2015 is the 20th edition of Dead Duck Day. At exactly 17:55 h we will honor the mallard duck that became known to science as the first (documented) ‘victim’ of homosexual necrophilia in that species, and earned its discoverer (me) the 2003 Ig Nobel Biology Prize.

Dead Duck Day also commemorates the billions of other birds that die(d) from colliding with glass buildings, and challenges people to find solutions to this global problem.

Please join the free, short open-air ceremony next to the new wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam (the Netherlands), right below the new Dead Duck Memorial Plaque— the very spot where that duck (now museum specimen NMR 9989-00232) met his dramatic end.

This is what will happen:

The traditional six-course (dead) duck dinner at the famous Tai Wu Restaurant is also open to the public (at your own expense). Reserve you seat by e-mailing to: info [at]


More on the history of Dead Duck Day on the official Dead Duck Day website: Informatie in het Nederlands: hier.

Here is our new Dead Duck Day logo

The new Dead Duck Day logo

The new Dead Duck Day logo. (Mark Prinsen, 2015)

Today, exactly one month to go before the 20th Dead Duck Day, we proudly present our new logo. Still based on the classic Figure 2a of the Ig Nobel winning paper ‘The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae)‘, graphic designer Mark Prinsen has given the logo a new and more powerful look. He used the same sign-language he developed for the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.

This year’s Dead Duck Day is the 20th. As usual, the short open air ceremony will be at June 5th, starting at exactly at 17:55h just outside the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, right below the Dead Duck Day Memorial Plaque.

It is on a Friday. Save the date: June 5th. We will keep you posted, and – please – do follow us on twitter: @Dead_Duck_Day


The north wing of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, with the Dead Duck Day Memorial Plaque, just left of the museum logo. (Photo Garry Bakker)


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