I have never thought stuffed birds make good museum exhibits. A stuffed bird looks exactly that – stuffed. Compared to mammals or arthropods, birds lack physical diversity; their behavior and song are far more interesting, but neither survives the stuffing process. Which is why, on childhood trips to London's Natural History Museum, I'd always hurry through the bird gallery to get to the insects beyond (dead insects are nearly as good as live ones). However, one particular avian exhibit would always slow me down.

As mythical creatures go, the dodo is right up there with the phoenix, griffon, and unicorn. But, it's better than any of those, because this giant, flightless, hook-beaked member of the pigeon family really did exist. And here was a stuffed one, preposterously and endearingly plump just as a dodo should be, staring out at me from a distant time when explorers were still busy discovering...

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