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.

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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 –).