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Dodo Bird Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

Profile Picture of Dodo Bird

The dodo bird, scientific name “Raphus cucullatus,” has long been synonymous with foolishness. Discovered on the island of Mauritius in 1598 by settlers, the ill-fated dodo would be extinct only eighty years later. (1)

Believed to have been a distant relative of pigeons, the dodo bird’s biology is now shrouded in mystery. Few specimens remain in good condition and artistic depictions of these birds are thought to be inaccurate and exaggerated. (2) In art, dodos are usually depicted as fat, inelegant, and cumbersome animals; like walking turkey dinners ready for the dinner table. The few specimens remaining suggest that wild dodos were much more lean and agile than this. Unfortunately, further details about the dodo bird’s traits are largely lost to time.

What we do know about the dodo bird is that they were so named for their naïve trust for humans. In Portuguese, “dodo” means “simpleton.” Settlers saw this fearless comfort around potential predators as a sign of foolishness. Thus, the reputation of the dumb dodo was born. (3)

Dodo birds, however, are much more than their silly reputation. They are often associated with innocence and naïveté, as well as the dangers of careless overconsumption or hunting. Dodos are stark examples of what can happen when the balance of nature is not respected by mankind. In this sense, at least, the dodo bird holds a position of grave importance. Though so much of the dodo has been confined to the mysterious realm of the past, the impact of these strange birds is a lesson for the present and, for better or for worse, a warning for the future of humanity’s relationship with this planet and her creatures.

On this page
Dodo Bird Symbolism and Meaning
Dodo Bird in Dreams
Dodo Bird Encounters and Omens
Dodo Bird Mythology and Folklore
Dodo Bird Spirit Animal
Dodo Bird Totem Animal
Dodo Bird Power Animal
Dodo Bird Tattoo Meaning

Dodo Bird Symbolism and Meaning

The obvious symbolic meaning of the dodo bird is stupidity. Often considered too ridiculous to live, myths abound regarding dodos walking off of cliffs or into volcanoes. Though it is believed that this reputation for stupidity is unearned, the fact of the matter is that dodos have been inextricably linked to foolishness in the imagination of mankind. Even if these birds were much smarter than their reputation implies, depictions of dodos usually highlight their, perhaps exaggerated, clumsy features and all around goofy appearance. 

Dodo birds often symbolize death, obsolescence, and extinction. This association is an obvious product of the dodo’s history. Extinct within eighty years of being discovered by humanity, dodos are synonymous with doom. In fact, a common idiom for going extinct or fading into obscurity uses the dodo’s plight. To “go the way of the dodo” is to cease to exist or to be relevant. (4)

Their symbolic connection to extinction can also be demonstrated by the connection of dodos with conservation. Rather than just representing the fate of a doomed species, dodos can also represent the hope that humanity can learn from its mistakes and preserve the biodiversity of nature. In this sense, dodos are the perfect representative: an animal so innocent and unspoiled by violence was eradicated from this planet within a single lifetime. This is a mistake that humanity cannot afford to continue making.

Finally, dodo birds are the national symbol of the island country of Mauritius. Located off of the eastern coast of Africa, Mauritius is the only habitat in which dodos have ever been known to live. The people of Mauritius cherish the history of the dodo bird. When the Dutch first landed on Mauritius, there were no human inhabitants on the island. In many ways, the people who now inhabit Mauritius see the dodo bird as the island’s true natives. Dodos are even depicted on the currency of Mauritius. (5)

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Dodo Bird in Dreams

Dreaming of dodo birds can be a meaningful experience. In many cases, these birds appear as guiding forces, warning us of danger and treachery.

Because of their naïveté and lack of familiarity with humans as predators, dodos seemed to trust humans to the detriment of their own survival. Dreaming of dodos may indicate that there is a danger in your life that you are failing to recognize. Dodos in dreams can be a reminder that, while trust is certainly a virtue, a healthy dose of suspicion can go a long way towards preserving your safety and happiness.

In some cases, dreaming of dodo birds can have the opposite meaning. For dreamers who find themselves to be guarded and closed off, dodos can be a reminder that it’s important to open up and be vulnerable once in a while. Dodos highlight the importance of the distinction between protecting oneself and isolating oneself.

Dreaming of dodo birds may also represent mystery. Very little is known about the lives of these extinct birds. For a dreamer with anxieties regarding the unknown, an appearance from a dodo bird may represent the frustration of knowledge that will always be out of reach. In the case of dodos, this knowledge is confined to the past, however, for human dreamers the mystery is often linked to the unknowable future.

Dodo Bird Encounters and Omens

It is an unfortunate fact that there is no way that anyone can truly encounter the dodo bird now that they have been driven from this earth. In spite of this, there are a number of different ways to “encounter” dodos. Frequently encountering images or depictions of dodos can be a sort of “encounter.”

Such an encounter can indicate that there is someone in your life who is likely to betray you. Dodo birds were betrayed by their own trusting natures and by the previous lack of predators on their home island which rendered them defenseless.

Additionally, a dodo encounter can mean that it’s time to cast off an old habit. If something that you’re comfortable doing has been holding you back, it may be time for that practice to go “the way of the dodo.” Although extinction has a decidedly negative connotation, dodos can act as reminders that casting aside obsolete things is a necessary part of growth and progress. Although the fate of the dodo bird is unfortunate, it is still undoubtedly true that some things must end to make way for positive change and transformation.

An encounter with a dodo can also mean that you have been neglecting your silly side. Dodos may appear before individuals who are suffering from sourness. When we take ourselves too seriously, our spirits suffer. Laughter is the best medicine, after all. Encountering a dodo can be a great reminder that there is no shame, and in fact quite a lot of benefit, to be had from embracing silliness.

Mythology of the Dodo Bird

Because they were not discovered until the end of the sixteenth century, dodo birds have never been significant characters in the mythological traditions of any cultures. The island of Mauritius, prior to its discovery by the Dutch in 1598, was completely uninhabited by human beings. (6)

The mythological tradition of dodo birds, instead of being a series of ancient religious stories, is a much more recent tradition of doubt and confusion. Dodo birds were, for many years, believed to have been a myth themselves. (7) When sailors returned to the island of Mauritius, years after the last recorded dodo sighting in the late seventeenth century, the island was noticeably devoid of the large flightless birds that had been described almost a century earlier. The concept that an animal could die off into extinction was not a familiar one, and as a result, it was assumed by many that dodos had never existed at all. (8)

Although we now know that dodos were very much real, this knowledge did not come into being until the late nineteenth century, when naturalism and the modern classification of species began to grow.

Dodo Specimen
Dodo Specimen

Dodo Bird Spirit Animal

As a spirit animal, the dodo bird is frequently misunderstood or underestimated. People with this spirit animal may struggle with the feeling that they are not seen by others in the ways that they want to be seen. 

The dodo spirit animal is kind and trusting. Most people with this spirit animal are extroverts who naturally befriend strangers easily. This can lead to a tendency for individuals with this spirit animal to form many superficial relationships and to struggle with distinguishing between superficial relationships and deep emotional connections. To outsiders, this tendency can lead people with the dodo spirit animal to appear vapid, but it’s important to note that most people with the dodo spirit animal often see all of their relationships as meaningful. Instead of vapid, they are indiscriminately open and affectionate. This tendency to be trusting often leads the individual with the dodo spirit animal to be hurt by people that they should not have allowed to get close in the first place.

Contrary to their foolish reputation, people with the dodo spirit animal are inquisitive and curious. They often love to meet new people and learn new things.

One weakness of the dodo spirit animal is that, despite their love of exploration and learning, people with the dodo spirit animal often feel deeply uncomfortable in new environments. Like the dodos who were present only on the island of Mauritius, people with the dodo spirit animal are homebodies and may struggle to thrive in unfamiliar environments.

Dodo Bird Totem Animal

The dodo bird totem animal is one of duality. People with the dodo bird totem animal are prone to stagnation and habit. However, they also tend to experience periods of growth and renewal.

Similar to the dodo spirit animal, the dodo totem is often misunderstood. Contrary to the dodo’s image, people with the dodo totem animal are mysterious, elusive, and cautious. Individuals with this totem tend to spend a long time assessing situations before they allow themselves to make a move. In this way, the tendency of the dodo totem animal is to “look before you leap.”

People with the dodo totem animal tend to form very strong connections to the land. For individuals with the dodo totem, family connections and fond memories are impossible to separate from the home environment. For this reason, people with the dodo totem tend to be very sentimental and nostalgic. 

People with the dodo totem animal tend to be similarly attached to their ancestry and family history. An individual with the dodo totem will almost always prefer to be surrounded by a large family spanning many generations.

Dodo Bird Power Animal

As a power animal, the dodo bird is endowed with a great inner strength of spirit. People with the dodo bird power animal are unyielding in their determination. This can, at times, lead these individuals into the territory of bullish stubbornness.

The dodo power animal gives the inner fortitude to stay true to oneself. People with the dodo power animal are uniquely capable of withstanding change and do not unconsciously mold themselves into shapes that suit others.

Dodo Bird Tattoo Meaning

A dodo bird tattoo is often representative of silliness or humor. It can also be a symbolic reminder that a goofy facade can hide a well of inner power.

In some cases, a dodo tattoo may represent aging and embracing all of the connotations of old age. Dodos often represent obsolescence.

A dodo tattoo may also be a significant reminder of home for an individual from the island nation of Mauritius.


The tale of the dodo is either ridiculous or terribly sad depending upon how you look at it. In most people’s understandings, the dodo was a doomed animal; too stupid, too fat, and too clumsy to survive for very long. Perhaps the rapid extinction of the dodo bird supports this idea.

For many others, though, the story of the dodo is a story about the carelessness of mankind and the steep cost of discovery. Had humans never ventured to the island of Mauritius, would dodos still flourish there? The answer, like so many aspects of the dodo bird, is unknowable.

What we can be certain of is the fact that the dodo bird is no more, and that the biodiversity of this planet will always be slightly poorer for it. If there is nothing else that we can learn from dodo birds, it should at least be clear that humanity has a responsibility to prevent such losses from recurring. Without the presence of conservation efforts, it is only a matter of time before other endangered species like California condors or black-footed ferrets go the way of the dodo.

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