Dead Duck Day 2020, some photo’s

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 25th Dead Duck Day on June 5th, 2020, went back to basics: me, the stuffed duck and a bottle of beer. The same setting as 25 years ago. Despite the low profile – and the announcement the special anniversary edition will be postponed till 2021 – still five spectators attended. Here is a photographic report. Images by Niels de Zwarte.

Dead Duck Day 2019: ‘May we continue to welcome and honor the unexpected’

Knowing the 1st Dead Duck Day in 1996 had only two participants (me and the duck), the record number of 75 people attending the 24th Dead Duck Day ceremony, 5 June 2019, was heartwarming. Sixteen of them showed-up wearing the official Dead Duck Day t-shirt – also a milestone.

With me, the audience was very pleased with the ‘Special Dead Duck Day Message’, send in by corvid researcher dr Kaeli Swift, first-author of the 2018 paper ‘Occurrence and variability of tactile interactions between wild American crows and dead conspecifics’. I had the honor to read it aloud:

Greetings to the participants of the 2019 annual Dead Duck Day! It is with great delight and a strong sense of surrealism that I address you here today. I can still remember when I first learned of the original event over a decade ago while I was an undergraduate dreaming of a career in animal behavior. Today, my work is the latest contribution to the growing list of non-human animals whose occasional behaviors with their dead rattle our puritan instincts. Writing the words “putting the crow in necrophilia” is perhaps one of the most delightful and unexpected outcomes of my life and I’m not sure what else to say about it other than “yes kids, sometimes you grow up to be even more strange than you already are and it’s more wonderful than you can imagine.” May we continue to welcome and honor the unexpected. Happy Dead Duck Day!

We also paid tribute to the 60th anniversary of Bob Dickerman’s observation of ‘Davian Behavior Complex in Ground Squirrels‘ (in 1959).

Images (also by Maarten Laupman) of other things that happened, including O.C. Hooymeijer’s performance, are here.

Join the 21st Dead Duck Day, on June 5th

DDD20 logo DEF DT (1)Sunday June 5th, 2016 is the 21th 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:


Sarah Forbes

  • The traditional Ten Seconds of Silence.
  • Review of this year’s necrophilia news: two new clear cases in birds became known to science, and the first case in a Dutch mammal (!) will be revealed.
  • The reading of the special ‘Dead Duck Day Message’. This years message is send in by Sarah Forbes, former curator of the Museum of Sex (MoS) in New York and author of the book ‘Sex in the Museum’.
  • The announcement of the second performance of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ in London, on sacred grounds, June 24th, 2016.
  • The first-ever Dead Duck Day Fashion Show. The first batch of t-shirts, designed by Mark Prinsen, will be for sale.
  • A six-course duck dinner, after the ceremony.

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: here. And for our Dutch readers: here.


The Homosexsual Necrophiliac Duck Opera

Composer Daniel Gillingwater, in 'The Betsey Trotwood', London, March 2006.

Composer Daniel Gillingwater, in ‘The Betsey Trotwood’, London, March 2006.

A couple of weeks ago composer Daniel Gillingwater, who I know from some 2006 Ig Nobel adventures in the UK, brought me thrilling news by e-mail:

“We are having the premiere of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ at the Ig Nobel Show, Imperial College, London next March.”

I knew vaguely about his plan and then thought he was joking. But now it seemed real. I have to admit, the dead duck (paper) changed my life, did inspire some people, and I even made a few laugh-and-think (see my 2013 TED-talk), but the performing arts – even an opera – are new grounds to me.

So I asked Daniel about the creation and message of his work. Here is his response:

Sarah Remond will play (and sing) me.

Sarah Remond will play (and sing) me.

“Kees, I have long admired your Ig Nobel Prize winning paper ‘The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard (duck)’ (PDF). Last summer, under the influence of too many espressos in the Welcome Trust cafe with Ig Nobel founder Marc Abrahams, I put forward the suggestion that your Dead Duck Paper would make a fine mini opera. At which point Marc sprayed his coffee across the table and implored me to go home and begin work. Eight months later I did. By February 2014 it was all but finished.”

“I have set it for solo high voice, in this premiere performed by Sarah Redmond (playing your role, as  witness and first [and only author]). The gender difference need not be an issue as you are an elegant and willowy specimen, much like Sarah. The scoring also includes clarinet quintet, the Edge Ensemble with Shaun Thompson on clarinet. We have a vocal chorus of four – soprano, alto, tenor and bass punctuating the section beginning ‘Rather startled, I watched …’ which is the final vivace section of a pseudo Mozartian aria.”

“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.”

My excitement grew. The actual words of my classic 2001 paper would be sung and the duck’s display re-enacted! I had to find a way to participate. So I convinced Daniel that I am a virtuoso at playing the ‘Duck Call’. He agreed immediately:

“Now this rarely used orchestral instrument will be in the heart of the whole work and serves to comment sardonically on the comparisons of this act of homosexual necrophilia and the state of western civilisation today.”

My duck call (book not related).

My duck call (book not related).

Although I do not read a note of music, I am extremely confident in my role.

Come, see and listen: Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, 14 March 2014, 18:00-20:00h: Imperial College, London (South Kensington Campus, The Great Hall, Sherfield Building), with Marc Abrahams, including the world premiere of ‘The Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck Opera’ composed by Daniel Gillingwater, performed by Sarah Redmond, the Edge Ensemble with Shaun Thompson, and me, and more improbable stuff. [tickets]

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.

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.