Atlas Obscura has posted an article detailing Five Astounding Animal Automata, which includes a story about a life-size mechanical duck created in 1739 by Jacques de Vaucanson. The article notes:
[I]t was Vaucanson’s dearest dream to make a duck automaton that did actually eat, digest, and excrete grain like a real bird. Why is not quite clear.
Alas, the digesting duck met its end in an 1889 fire …
And of course this gives me an excuse to again post one of my all-time favorite quotes:
If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.
from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency