great auk

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Related to great auks: aurochs, Pinguinus

great auk:

see aukauk
, 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
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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.

great auk

hunters killed such large numbers, these birds became extinct in 1840s. [Ecology: Hammond, 290]

great auk

a large flightless auk, Pinguinus impennis, extinct since the middle of the 19th century
References in periodicals archive ?
We found the distinctive Great Auk bones in Wurm I levels at Gibraltar, and in late-glacial levels at Nerja, Malaga (Eastham 1986) and Urtiaga, Guipuzcoa (Spain) (unpublished), and numerous finds are reported in the literature (Casoli et al.
An identification of the El Pendo and Cosquer panels as auks or as seabirds nesting colonially is more reasonable than assigning them more narrowly to Pinguinus impennis - even though the excavated middens show that more Great Auk were taken by Palaeolithic hunters than any other species the drawings might represent.
Martin, writing in 1753, says the Great Auk 'stands stately, its whole body erected'; and Newton in 1861 says, 'On the rocks they sat more upright than either guillemots or razorbills'.
In reviewing the known breeding ecology of the Great Auk, Bengtson (1984: 5) concludes that only one egg was laid per season, and if this was lost, it was not replaced; there was no second half to the breeding season.
Among other possible representations of the Great Auk, d'Errico begins with the carved baton from the Magdalenian levels of Raymonden (Dordogne, France).
An engraving from El Pendo (Cantabria, Spain), is taken by d'Errico and others as a good candidate for a Great Auk, but this is clearly not the case.
D'Errico, rightly dismissing this as a representation of the Great Auk, offers no other identification.
The occurrence of young Great Auks in post-glacial sites in Denmark and Norway, far from their breeding sites in historical times, shows how their geographical distribution changed.
Giving credence to the evidence concerning the behaviour of the Great Auks of the island of St Kilda, Bengston (1984) reckoned that the bird must have accomplished egg-laying, incubation and fledging in a period of 6-7 weeks, starting around mid May.
The small wings in the Cosquer paintings identify the Great Auk or Garefowl (Pinguinus impennis), now extinct, which alone among the Alcidae possessed -- like southern penguins -- wings so reduced as to make flight impossible.
The heads of the Cosquer birds appear schematic, but the bill of P3 is reminiscent of the massive beak of the Great Auk.
The Great Auk was a highly gregarious species, even in the water (Newton 1861).