auk

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auk

(ôk), common name for a member of the family Alcidae (alcid family), swimming and diving birds of the N Atlantic and Pacific, which includes the guillemots and puffins. Their legs are set far back on their bodies, making them clumsy on land, where they seldom venture except to nest. The extinct, flightless great auk, Pinguinus impennis, or garefowl, represents the largest species. It was about the size of a goose, black above and grayish white below, and was formerly abundant in the N Atlantic. Slaughtered in its breeding grounds for its flesh, feathers, and oil, it became extinct c.1844. The least auklet (about 6 1-2 in./16.3 cm), common in the Bering Sea region, is the smallest of the family, and the razor-billed auk, Alca torda (16–18 in./40–45 cm), is the largest surviving member. The Eskimos hunt the dovekie (Plautus alle), or little auk, for food and use its feathered skin for clothing. Auks return to the same breeding grounds every year, and each individual goes to the very same nesting site. The single egg is laid on bare rock on cliff ledges, and incubation duties are shared by both parents. Auks are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Alcidae.
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auk

[ȯk]
(vertebrate zoology)
Any of several large, short-necked diving birds (Alca) of the family Alcidae found along North Atlantic coasts.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

auk

1. any of various diving birds of the family Alcidae of northern oceans having a heavy body, short tail, narrow wings, and a black-and-white plumage: order Charadriiformes
2. little auk a small short-billed auk, Plautus alle, abundant in Arctic regions
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The auks or parakeets are eaten first then the blubber.
This paper describes observations made of glaucous gulls stealing little auks stored in a den by arctic foxes in Magdalenefjorden, northwest Spitsbergen.
Large numbers of the birds were seen at Saltburn, but further north on the Farne Islands records were broken when 28,000 little auks were recorded.
Like most marine birds, the great auks had a population regulation strategy that delayed the age of reproduction, often beyond the age of sexual maturity.
Soon great auks became a favorite food of New World sailors, who sometimes stretched a spare sail from ship to shore and simply herded the birds into an on-board butcher shop.
Professor Birkhead used the annual number of shipwrecks off western Britain as an index of oil pollution, to which auks such as Guillemots are very susceptible.
Holyhead harbour and Point Lynas are other places to see this scarcest of Welsh breeding auks.
A new record for the number of Little Auks in British waters was broken twice in three days on the Farne Islands.
* WARMING high above the frozen sea, a flock of little auks flee from a hungry predator below.
The birds, which used their wings to swim with, were related to puffins, guillemots and little auks, with eggs a little larger than that of a goose or razorbill.