About Kees Moeliker

About Kees Moeliker

Kees Moeliker is European Bureau Chief of the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. and author of the book De eendenman [English translation: "The Duck Guy"].

Kees and ducks
Kees Moeliker and ducks

Kees Moeliker was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 1960. As a schoolboy he wandered in the fields and marshes surrounding the city, looking for birds. His first real discovery dates back to April 1973, when he observed the first Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) ever seen in the Rotterdam area.

He studied biology and geography, and - as a student - got deeply involved in the population-ecology study of the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) conducted by his mentor, friend and neighbor Kees Heij. After being an assistant-butcher, an English teacher in Istanbul, a nature guide in Costa Rica and a biology teacher at several high schools, he was appointed education officer at the Natural History Museum Rotterdam in 1989. He still works at the museum, now as chief-curator and head of communications.

As an ornithologist his main achievements are the rediscovery and securing of long-lost birds: in 1991 (together with Kees Heij) the Black-chinned Monarch (Monarcha boanensis) on the remote Moluccan island of Boano; and in 2001 (together with several colleagues and an Indonesian counterpart) Bruijn’s brush-turkey (Aepypodius bruijnii) on the Papuan island of Waigeo. Together with several other specialists, he contributed to the chapter dealing with the family Monarchidae in the Handbook of the Birds of the World (volume 11, 2006).

Kees and ducks

Flying mammals also interest him. He collected and subsequently described a new subspecies of fruit bat (Macroglossus minimus booensis Kompanje & Moeliker, 2001) endemic to the remote West-Papuan island of Boo.

Closer to home, he secured and preserved the remains of the now immortal ‘Domino Sparrow’, the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) that was brutally shot in the Netherlands in November 2005 after she threatened to ruin a domino-toppling world record attempt. The bird’s dramatic death caused public outrage, and so did the outrage itself. The mounted specimen is now an ‘icon of Dutch culture’, and one of the museum’s most remarkable pieces. In 2007, alerted by a medical report about the local decline of the pubic louse, Moeliker campaigned to collect and preserve ‘the last of the pubic lice’ for the collection of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam, were specimens of Phthirus pubis were lacking. Results were meagre, but the amount of publicity huge.

Moeliker always has a keen eye for strange bird behaviour. In 1995 he was the first to witness a case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck. In 2003, his publication about this observation ("The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Aves: Anatidae)") earned him the Ig Nobel biology prize, the award that honors ‘research that first makes you laugh, then makes you think’. Since then he is know as ‘the duck guy’ and has joined the editorial board of the Annals of Improbable Research. He also appeared annually on stage at the Ig Nobel prize ceremony and is a regular performer during the annual Ig Nobel Tour of the UK. In May 2006 he was appointed European Bureau Chief of Improbable Research.

He publishes his observations regularly in NRC Handelsblad (a leading Dutch newspaper), on the Improbable Research blog and he has a weekly talk at the Atlas Radio show.

Besides his work on birds, bats, natural history and improbable research, Kees Moeliker is an avid collector of (top quality) binoculars.

Kees Moeliker, European Bureau Chief
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Mobile: (+31) 6 53778445
Email: kees.moeliker AT improbable.com