great auk


great auk

noun

Definition of GREAT AUK

:  an extinct large flightless auk (Pinguinus impennis) formerly abundant along North Atlantic coasts

First Known Use of GREAT AUK

circa 1828

great auk

noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

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.

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