great auk


great auk
a large, flightless auk, Pinguinus impennis, of rocky islands off North Atlantic coasts: extinct since 1844.
[1820-30]

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Flightless seabird (Pinguinus impennis) extinct since 1844.

Great auks bred in colonies on rocky islands off North Atlantic coasts; fossil remains have been found as far south as Florida, Spain, and Italy. Their bodies were about 30 in. (75 cm) long; the wings, used for swimming underwater, were less than 6 in. (15 cm) long. They stood erect on land and had a black back and head, a white front, and a large white spot between the eye and the black bill. Great auks were hunted to extinction for food and bait. About 80 specimens are preserved in museums. See also auk.

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bird
also called  garefowl 

      (species Pinguinus impennis), flightless seabird extinct since 1844. Great auks belonged to the family Alcidae (order Charadriiformes). They bred in colonies on rocky islands off North Atlantic coasts (St. Kilda, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Funk Island off Newfoundland); subfossil remains have been found as far south as Florida, Spain, and Italy.

      The body of the great auk was approximately 75 cm (30 inches) long; the wings, which were used in swimming under water, were less than 15 cm long. The large black bill bore eight or more transverse grooves. The bird stood erect on land. It had a black back and head, a white front, and a large white spot between the bill and eye.

      Utterly defenseless, great auks were killed by rapacious hunters for food and bait, particularly during the early 1800s. Enormous numbers were captured, the birds often being driven up a plank and slaughtered on their way into the hold of a vessel. The last known specimens were killed in June 1844 at Eldey island, Iceland. About 80 great auks and a like number of their eggs are preserved in museums. The nearest living relatives are the razor-billed auks, about 40 cm long.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • great auk — great′ auk′ n. orn a large flightless auk, Pinguinus impennis, of rocky islands off N Atlantic coasts: extinct since 1844 …   From formal English to slang

  • great auk — n. a large, flightless auk (Pinguinus impennis) of the N Atlantic, extinct since 1844 …   English World dictionary

  • Great Auk — Taxobox name = Great Auk status = EX extinct = 1852. The last specimen was sighted in Newfoundland. status system = iucn3.1 image width = 200px image caption = Breeding (standing) and nonbreeding (swimming) plumage. By John Gerrard Keulemans.… …   Wikipedia

  • great auk — noun large flightless auk of rocky islands off northern Atlantic coasts; extinct • Syn: ↑Pinguinus impennis • Hypernyms: ↑auk • Member Holonyms: ↑Pinguinus, ↑genus Pinguinus * * * noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • great auk — noun Date: circa 1828 an extinct large flightless auk (Pinguinus impennis) formerly abundant along North Atlantic coasts …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • great auk — noun A large auk, Pinguinus impennis. Syn: garefowl …   Wiktionary

  • great auk — noun a large flightless auk of the North Atlantic, exterminated in the 19th century. [Alca impennis.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • great auk — /greɪt ˈɔk/ (say grayt awk) noun a large, flightless seabird, Pinguinus impennis, formerly abundant on the coasts of the northern Atlantic, but now extinct; garefowl …   Australian English dictionary

  • Auk — Auk, n. [Prov. E. alk; akin to Dan. alke, Icel. & Sw. alka.] (Zo[ o]l.) A name given to various species of arctic sea birds of the family {Alcid[ae]}. The great auk, now extinct, is {Alca impennis} (or {Plautus impennis}) . The razor billed auk… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • auk — /awk/, n. any of several usually black and white diving birds of the family Alcidae, of northern seas, having webbed feet and small wings. Cf. great auk, razor billed auk. [1665 75; < Scand; cf. ON alka] * * * In general, any of 22 species of… …   Universalium


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