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Dodos and Solitaires: Raphidae

Dodo (raphus Cucullatus): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Dodos were large birds about the size of a turkey. They had dark gray feathers on the back and somewhat lighter gray feathers on the belly. The wings were tiny and yellowish white in color. The tail was small and short, made up of five curled feathers. Dodos had large, yellow hooked bills. The face was featherless, with gray skin.

Geographic range: Dodos were found on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Madagascar.

Habitat: The dodo inhabited woodland areas.

Diet: Dodos ate fruit. They also swallowed small stones to help with digesting food in the crop, an organ found near the throat.

Behavior and reproduction: Dodos could not fly, but were able to run quickly. When a dodo was caught, it would scream and other dodos would rush to the site, getting caught themselves. One sailor described dodos as "serene and majestic" and said that they did not run away from humans.

Because dodos could not fly, they were easy to hunt. When a dodo was caught, it would scream and other dodos would rush to the site, getting caught themselves. (Illustration by Gillian Harris. Reproduced by permission.)

Dodos built nests on the ground. Only one egg was laid at a time. Judging by their size, eggs probably hatched after about thirty-seven days.

Dodos and people: Sailors traveling in the Indian Ocean caught dodos in large numbers for food. The dodo is the first recorded species that was driven to extinction by human activity.

Conservation status: The dodo is Extinct. Not only did sailors eat the dodos, but the pigs, cats, and monkeys brought to Mauritius by sailors ate large numbers of dodo eggs. ∎



del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4, Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1997.

Hachisuka, M. The Dodo and Kindred Birds, or the Extinct Birds of the Mascarene Islands. London: Witherby, 1953.

Perrins, Christopher, ed. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2003.

Quammen, D. The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions. New York: Scriber, 1996.

Web sites:

"Family Raphidae (Dodo and Solitaires)." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Raphidae.html#Raphidae (accessed on June 12, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsDodos and Solitaires: Raphidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Dodos, Solitaires, And People, Dodo (raphus Cucullatus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, CONSERVATION STATUS