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Home » How A Dead Duck Changed My Life by Kees Moeliker (Full Transcript)

How A Dead Duck Changed My Life by Kees Moeliker (Full Transcript)

Full text of ornithologist Kees Moeliker on How A Dead Duck Changed My Life at TED Talk conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Kees Moeliker on How a dead duck changed my life


This is the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam where I work as a curator. It’s my job to make sure the collection stays okay, and that it grows, and basically it means I collect dead animals.

Back in 1995, we got a new wing next to the museum. It was made of glass, and this building really helped me to do my job good. The building was a true bird-killer. You may know that birds don’t understand the concept of glass. They don’t see it, so they fly into the windows and get killed. The only thing I had to do was go out, pick them up, and have them stuffed for the collection.

And in those days, I developed an ear to identify birds just by the sound of the bangs they made against the glass. And it was on June 5, 1995, that I heard a loud bang against the glass that changed my life and ended that of a duck. And this is what I saw when I looked out of the window.

This is the dead duck. It flew against the window. It’s laying dead on its belly. But next to the dead duck is a live duck, and please pay attention. Both are of the male sex. And then this happened. The live duck mounted the dead duck, and started to copulate.

Well, I’m a biologist. I’m an ornithologist. I said, “Something’s wrong here.” One is dead, one is alive. That must be necrophilia. Look, both are of the male sex. Homosexual necrophilia.

So I took my camera, I took my notebook, took a chair, and started to observe this behavior. After 75 minutes — I had seen enough, and I got hungry, and I wanted to go home. So I went out, collected the duck, and before I put it in the freezer, I checked if the victim was indeed of the male sex. And here’s a rare picture of a duck’s penis, so it was indeed of the male sex. It’s a rare picture because there are 10,000 species of birds and only 300 possess a penis.

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