great auk

great auk


Mounted specimen of great auk (Pinguinus impennis)—John Warham

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.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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