Dodo (family Raphidae)

The family Raphidae is related to pigeons and consists of three species - the Common dodo, the Rodriguez solitaire, and the Reunion solitaire. These birds were restricted to the Mascarene Islands (about 1000 km east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean) and became extinct during the 17th and 18th centuries due to the activities of European colonizers.

The Raphidae were about the size of large turkeys, the dodo being somewhat larger than the solitaires and weighing up to 25 kg. Both types had stocky builds with short, strong legs, heavy beaks, and rudimentary wings which were useless for flight. The solitaires had a less heavy build and longer necks and legs than the dodo.

These birds lived in forests which were once found on the Mascarene Islands. They ate fallen fruit and leaves, and possibly also small animals such as crabs. Nests were mounds of vegetable matter, in which the female laid one egg about the size of a goose egg. Apparently the male and female mated for life, and took turns incubating their eggs.

Being slow and ungainly, the dodos and solitaires were easy prey for hunters. Their demise was hastened by the introduction of pigs which destroyed their nests and chicks, and deforestation of their islands.

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