Runion Solitaire

Mystery flightless Bird of Réunion.

Scientific names: Raphus solitarius, given by Edmond de Sélys-Longchamps in 1848; Didus borbonicus, given by Lionel Walter Rothschild in 1907; Victoriornis imperialis, suggested by Masauji Hachisuka in 1937.

Variant names: Dod-eersen, White dodo. Physical description: White plumage. Smaller bill. Long neck. Yellow wing feathers or black wing tips. Slender feet. Tail is plumed.

Distribution: Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. Significant sightings: First reported in 1613 as a large white fowl by J. Tatton.

Willem Ysbrandsz Bontekoe described a dodo on Réunion in 1619, referring to it as a Dod-eersen, but he didn't mention its color.

Hamon L'Estrange saw a light-colored dodo on exhibit in London in 1638. It was bigger and fatter than a turkey.

French visitors Carré in 1668 and Du Bois in 1669 reported turkey-sized birds on Réunion that they referred to as solitaires. Du Bois said the bird was white with black wing tips.

Governor Mahé de la Bourdonnais reportedly sent a white dodo to France sometime between 1735 and 1746. Possible explanations:

(1) Imported Dodo specimens from Mauritius.

(2) Speculative or inaccurate depictions of the Mauritius Dodo.

(3) A surviving ibis, Threskiornis solitarius; this explanation became favored recently after the bird's fossil bones were discovered on the island.

Sources: Willem Ysbrandsz Bontekoe, Memorable Description ofthe East Indian Voyage, 1618-25 [1646] (London: G. Routledge, 1929); Hamon L'Estrange, The Reign of King Charles (London: E. Dod and H. Seile, 1655); Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans, Dodo-studien (Amsterdam: Johannes Muller, 1917); Masauji Hachisuka, The Dodo and Kindred Birds (London: H. F. and G. Witherby, 1953); Cécile Mourer-Chauviré, C. Roger Bour, and Sonia Ribes, "Position systématique du solitaire de la Réunion: Nouvelle interprétation basée sur les restes fossiles et les récits des anciens voyageurs," Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, ser. 2A, 320 (1995): 1125-1131; Errol Fuller, Extinct Birds (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 385-386.

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