W4W: what humans can learn from a fat dead pigeon



Print of a dodo

Image: Pixabay


You have to feel sorry for the subject of today’s Wednesday Word Tangle.

To begin with he’s dead, along with his entire species. Not only that, but every time we use his name, we’re calling him a simpleton.

If human beings hadn’t already made the chubby flightless pigeon the


extinct, the birds would have developed a serious complex by now.

Just imagine it …

You’ve got a pretty good life. You live on the heavenly island of Mauritius, spend all day waddling on the golden sands, stretching your claws in the warm ocean. There’s more fruit than you could ever shove down your gullet. You don’t even bother to fly anymore – what’s the point when all the food you need just drops off the trees at your feet and the island has no large predators to threaten you?

Yes, ife’s pretty damn glorious.

Then some big wooden floaty things arrive from over the sea and bring some really grumpy, hungry bipeds. You start to hear stories of missing Dodos, you realise you’ve got some friends you haven’t heard from in a while. But you don’t worry too much because the sun is shining and fruit’s falling from the trees.

Then your Nan vanishes. And your mate Dennis. And his missus Doreen.

Then one day, one of these bipeds is chasing you along the beautiful, warm sands, the sun reflecting from his shiny metal hat, and you try to run but your legs are stumpy, only fit for waddling on the beach and you flap what’s left of your wings but they’re too weak and you’re too heavy and you run and run and there’s a pop-pop sound and a pain in your back and you fall and the biped is standing over you looking really hungry and you hear the waves lapping the sand and imagine you could fly away like the big birds circling over your head and you close your eyes and …

Yes, the dodo had a cushy life until it encountered humans. Within 180 years of the Portuguese arriving on the island, it had been eaten to death not only by humans but also by pigs. Oh, and rats and monkeys ate their eggs – all of these animals introduced to Mauritius by Europeans, of course.

And it was the Portuguese who named them idiots, calling them doudo because they lived on the ground and were too slow to escape the hunt.

Apparently they weren’t as chubby as we imagine them, either – early drawings were all of captive, overfed birds and it’s likely the wild ones were slimmer. That’s what an all fruit diet will do for you.

On an interesting – if disturbing – side note, scientists recently noticed that certain species of tree on Mauritius were not regenerating and that the only extant examples were over 300 years old. You see, the trees’ seeds only became active after passing through a dodo gut. No dodo to eat the seed – no new trees. Read more here.

So, the Dodo’s story is a real cautionary tale to us humans.

Make one species extinct and we risk the future of others.

Now who’s the doudo?


Disturbingly, John Tenniel included hands in his dodo illustration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Take a look here where you’ll find more dodo facts.

Thanks to Kat for the original W4W.



























14 thoughts on “W4W: what humans can learn from a fat dead pigeon

  1. Your ‘Life as a Dodo’ bit made me giggle at first ,but it is actually so sad that us humans, in our stupidity and greed, managed to wipe out an entire, unique species.
    It is so true that there are weird and wonderful connections within nature that we never think of, or even know about yet. Chris Packham did a marvellous nature series on BBC2 about connections in nature and it was fascinating. It was called Secrets of Our Living Planet and I can highly recommend it.
    What is sad is that we are still endangering so many species even to this day.
    A great, thoughtful post Lynn,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, lovely. The story of the dodo is more relevant today than ever – terrible but true we don’t ever learn from the mistakes of history. I admire Chris Packham greatly – even his stance on panda bears, which I know some people find very upsetting. He’s too honest, that’s his problem. Sounds like a good programme – he’s made some crackers. Thank you, as always, lovely X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think his stance on pandas is perhaps his way of highlighting the issue that we are destroying the natural,habitats of the creatures. I hate to think of a world without pandas and tigers, but we need to make the world a place where they can survive and thrive, don’t we? Once again our greed and thoughtlessness wins over the needs of a species. We really are the worlds worst enemy aren’t we?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, we certainly are that. Pretty sure Packham said something like pandas have backed themselves into an evolutionary cul de sac (only eating one foodstuff, being so patchy at reproducing) and we spend way too much money on trying to rescue them (just because they look like beaten up teddy bears) compared to other less appealing species whose loss might have more impact on ecosystems.
        And yes, we’re the biggest killers in earth’s history – apart from maybe the mosquito. I often think the world would be much better off if we became extinct ourselves. Cheerful thought for the day 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I do see his point though – just because an animal is cuddly doesn’t mean it’s any more worth saving than a dung beetle or a parasitic wasp. Problem is, humans only want to pay out for animals with huge eyes and soft fur 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I don’t know. I reckon a panda could take your face off with one swipe. Grumpy buggers. Maybe it’s the lack of sex coupled with the prospect of their immiment demise as a species 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. You know why we only have picture of Dodo’s now? The last stuffed specimen was thrown out of the museum it was stored in by an over zealous cleaning lady who though it looked a bit moth-eaten.
    So we even destroyed all the physical evidence of our murderous past. How long before the Dodo is relegated to a myth?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there are bits of dodo in museums scattered around the globe – i know Oxford has the only examples of dodo skin on a skull and a foot – though they might be partial remains. You’re right that there’s no complete animal left – I think we have a ‘dodo’ in a case in a museum in Bristol, but it’s made up of wire and plaster and stork feathers as far as I can make out! A sad fate and rightly a symbol of extinction.

      Liked by 1 person

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