great 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 61-2 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 Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Alcidae.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Great Auk


(Pinguinus impennis), extinct flightless bird of the Alcidae family, close to the modern auk. Its body was up to 70 cm long; its wings were small and well-suited to paddling under water. It fed on fish.

The auk inhabited the Atlantic coast of Europe, North America, and Iceland. In the winter it apparently reached Florida and the Mediterranean Sea. It was hunted for its palatable meat, and in the 19th century it was completely destroyed. The last pair of great auks was killed in 1844 on the island of Elde, near Iceland.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

great auk

hunters killed such large numbers, these birds became extinct in 1840s. [Ecology: Hammond, 290]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

great auk

a large flightless auk, Pinguinus impennis, extinct since the middle of the 19th century
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Other records peg Eldey Island, in Iceland, as the place where the last pair of great auks were killed.
The great auk, a flightless seabird similar to a penguin, Ivell's sea anemone, Mitten's beardless-moss and York groundsel, a weed, have all become extinct since 1800
QUIZ CHALLENGE: 1 Perestroika; 2 Montmorency; 3 Carousel; 4 The great auk; 5 County Cork.
Some of these were spectacular large organisms, such as Steller's sea cow, the Caribbean monk seal, and the great auk, whereas others, such as most of the fishes, invertebrates, and seaweeds on the list, are known primarily to specialists.
If we are not careful the Liver Bird, which is already on the endangered species list, may soon go the way of the dodo, the moa and the great auk. Its roost on the Liver Building could be taken over by superlambananas and the people of Liverpool will eventually think of it as a mere legend, similar to the fire-breathing dragons of old.
A word sounding like penguin was first used to describe the now extinct great auk, but the choice of name is unlikely to have had Welsh input as the vanished bird only had a white spot in front of each eye.
Some victims are already gone: the great auk, passenger pigeon, woodland bison, dodo (and with it the tambalocoque tree, dependent for its germination on the passage of its seed through the dodo's digestive tract).
The most notorious losses were the dodo (hunted to extinction by sailors in the 17th century) and the great auk (killed for its skin and eggs in the 19th century).
hopes, regrets, the red-throated loon, the great auk --
If we are not careful, the only sparrow that future generations see will be stuffed and standing forlornly next to the extinct great auk in the city museum.
The true northern penguin, the great auk (family Alcidae), was also flightless, a member of the Charadriiformes related to gulls, auks, and lapwings.
Yet Okihiro is an anthropologist who seems to be `in love' with the culture he studied, and like all lovers, may be blinded to his beloved's flaws (which in this case include the reduction of several important wildlife species, from the Great Auk onwards).