What Did Dodo Birds Eat?

Ed Uthman/CC-BY-2.0

Researchers speculate that dodos fed on fruits, seeds, nuts, roots, bulbs and possibly shellfish or crabs. The uncertainty lies in the fact that dodos became extinct by the late 1600s. The only evidence of their appearance and physical characteristics are artists’ depictions, sub-fossil bones and one dried head and foot.

Dodos were native to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The first sightings of dodos were recorded by Dutch sailors in 1598. Because of their inability to fly, dodos were easy prey, and the sailors as well as the dogs, rats and pigs they brought with them hunted the birds relentlessly. The last dodo was sighted in 1662. The species became extinct so quickly that some people supposed them to be mythical.

Using DNA evidence, scientists have determined that dodos are related to pigeons. The birds developed their large size and inability to fly as a result of living on an island where there was an abundance of food and no predators. Artists of the era depicted them with large heads, blue-gray plumage, tiny wings, sturdy yellow legs, a spray of feathers on the rear and dark bills with red hooked tips. They grew to roughly 3 feet in height and weighed up to 50 pounds.