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.
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 George Marray Levick (1876-1956): unpublished notes on the sexual habits of the Adélie penguin] and Izzo et al. 2012 [Functional necrophilia: a profitable anuran reproductive strategy].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.
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]