Dodo in 1911

What is a dodo according to Classic Encyclopedia, based on the 11th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (pub. 1911):

DODO (from the Portuguese Doudo, a simpleton), a large bird formerly inhabiting the island of Mauritius, but now extinct – the Didus ineptus of Linnaeus. When, in 1507, the Portuguese discovered the island which we now know as Mauritius they named it Ilha do from a notion that it must be the island of that name mentioned by Pliny; but most authors have insisted that it was known to the seamen of that nation as Ilha do Cisne– perhaps but a corruption of Cerne, and brought about by their finding it stocked with large fowls, which, though not aquatic, they likened to swans, the most familiar to them of bulky birds. In 1598 the Dutch, under Van Neck, took possession of the island and renamed it Mauritius. A narrative of this voyage was published in 1601, if not earlier, and has been often reprinted. Here we have birds spoken of as big as swans or bigger, with large heads, no wings, and a tail consisting of a few curly feathers. The Dutch called them Walgvogels (the word is variously spelled), i.e. nauseous birds, either because no cooking made them palatable, or because this island-paradise afforded an abundance of fare so much superior. De Bry gives two admirably quaint prints of the doings of the Hollanders, and in one of them the Walgvogel appears, being the earliest published representation of its unwieldy form, with a footnote stating that the voyagers brought an example alive to Holland. Among the company there was a draughtsman, and from a sketch of his, Clusius, a few years after, gave a figure of the bird, which he vaguely called “Gallinaceus Gallus peregrines,” but described rather fully. Meanwhile two other Dutch fleets had visited Mauritius. One of them had rather an accomplished artist on board, and his drawings fortunately still exist (see article Bird). Of the other a journal kept by one of the skippers was subsequently published.

This in the main corroborates what has been before said of the birds, but adds the curious fact that they were now called by some Dodaarsen and by others Dronten. 1 Henceforth Dutch narrators, though several times mentioning the bird, fail to supply any important fact in its history. Their navigators, however, were not idle, and found work for their naturalists and painters. Clusius says that in 1605 he saw at Pauw’s House in Leyden a dodo’s foot, 2 which he minutely describes. In a copy of Clusius’s work in the high school of Utrecht is pasted an original drawing by Van de Venne superscribed “Vera effigies huius avis Walghvogel (quae & a nautis Dodaers propter foedam posterioris partis crassitiem nuncupatur), qualis viva Amsterodamum perlata est ex insula Mauritii. Anno M.DC.XXVI.” Now a good many paintings of the dodo drawn from life by Roelandt Savery

(1576-1639) exist; and the paintings by him at Berlin and Vienna – dated 1626 and 1628 – as 1 The etymology of these names has been much discussed. That of the latter, which has generally been adopted by German and French authorities, seems to defy investigation, but the former has been shown by Prof. Schlegel (Versl. en Mededeel. K. Akad. Wetensch. ii. pp. 255 et seq.) to be the homely name of the dabchick or little grebe (Podiceps minor), of which the Dutchmen were reminded by the round stern and tail diminished to a tuft that characterized the dodo. The same learned authority suggests that dodo is a corruption of Dodaars, but, as will presently be seen, we herein think him mistaken.

And that is just the first part of the article. The image used to illustrated is the Solitaire of Rodriguez (Pezophaps solitarius), from Leguat’s figure, and that’s the reason:

The Solitaire of Rodriguez (Pezophaps solitarius)

The dodo is said to have inhabited forests and to have laid one large white egg on a mass of grass. Besides man, hogs and other imported animals seem to have exterminated it. But the dodo is not the only member of its family that has vanished. The little island which has successively borne the name of Mascaregnas, England’s Forest, Bourbon and Reunion, and lies to the southward of Mauritius, had also an allied bird, now dead and gone. Of this not a relic has been – handled by any naturalist. The latest description of it, by Du Bois in 1674, is very meagre, while Bontekoe (1646) gave a figure, apparently intended to represent it. It was originally called the “solitaire,” but this name was also applied to Pezophaps solitarius of Rodriguez by the Huguenot exile Leguat, who described and figured it about 1691.

The solitaire, Didus solitarius of Gmelin, referred by Strickland to a district genus Pezophaps, is supposed to have lingered in the 3 E. Newton and H. Gadow, Trans. Zool. Soc. xiii. (1893) island of Rodriguez until about 1761. Leguat l has given a delightful description of its quaint habits. The male stood about 2 ft. 9 in. high; its colour was brownish grey, that of its mate more inclined to brown, with a whitish breast. The wings were rudimentary, the tail very small, almost hidden, and the thigh feathers were thick and curled “like shells.” A round mass of bone, “as big as a musket ball,” was developed on the wings of the males, and they used it as a weapon of offence while they whirled themselves about twenty or thirty times in four or five minutes, making a noise with their pinions like a rattle. The mien was fierce and the walk stately, the birds living singly or in pairs. The nest was a heap of palm leaves a foot high, and contained a single large egg which was incubated by both parents. The food consisted of seeds and leaves, and the birds aided digestion by swallowing large stones; these were used by the FIG. 3. – Skeleton of a male Solitaire, Pezophaps solitarius, Museum of Zoology, Cambridge.

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