Avian researchers discover long-extinct dodo species


An elusive sighting led researchers to a living dodo specimen at the UC Davis Arboretum.

April 1, 2014

After an elusive sighting nearly a month ago by a student, researchers staked out the UC Davis Arboretum and were finally rewarded with evidence of a living dodo specimen.

The dodo. Raphus cucullatus. Long thought to be extinct by experts around the world.

As it turns out, the last living specimen migrated from Mauritius to Davis, Calif. sometime over the last couple centuries.

"I was studying out near Lake Spafford early one day and looked up to find this odd looking bird pecking at the grass near the benches," reported UC Davis student, Debra Cheung. "It kind of looked like an ostrich so I tried to Instagram it, but it took off before my phone camera loaded!"

The avian scientists were at first skeptical, but after the student described the bird as having brownish-grey plumage, yellow feet, a tuft of tail feathers, a grey, naked head, and a black, yellow, and green beak, they decided it was worth pursuing. They set up a series of motion-activated cameras throughout the Arboretum and built a bird blind near the redwood grove. After a few weeks of nothing, a camera turned up a blur that when analyzed closely resembled the elusive dodo.

Several more days of the scientists' stakeout rewarded them with this very conclusive photo. Since the photo was taken, scientists have been scouring the Arboretum for dodo feathers or droppings, but none have been found yet.

This discovery may be remarkable, but it's nothing new for UC Davis. The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is also known for its research on the droughtsolving infant malnutrition, and more. Stay tuned for more information as the avian research department continues its pursuit of the Arboretum dodo.