8 Facts About the Great Auk

The Great Auk Had a (Superficial) Penguin-like appearance

Auks Fact And information: Just quickly, what do you call a black-and-white, non-flying bird that is about twelve pounds at maturity and measures two and a half feet tall. The Great Auk may not have been a true penguin, but it sure as hell looked like one.

It was the first bird to be loosely termed a penguin (due to its genus name, Pinguinus). Of course, one major distinction is that the Great Auk resided along the northernmost regions of the Atlantic Ocean, whereas true penguins are limited to the southern hemisphere, particularly the edges of Antarctica. 

The Northern Atlantic Coast Was Home to the Great Auk

Auks Fact And information: The Great Auk was never very abundant, although at its height of its range. It was found along the Atlantic coasts of Greenland, North America, Scandinavia. And western Europe This is because the perfect breeding environment for this flightless bird. Required rocky islands with sloping shorelines that were near to the ocean yet far enough away from Polar Bears. And other predators to be safe Because of this the Great Auk population only numbered. A few dozen breeding colonies spread throughout its enormous range in any one year. 

Native Americans Held the Great Auk in High Regard

For thousands of years, Native Americans had a complex connection with the Great Auk, one that changed significantly before the first European settlers arrived in North America. On the one hand, they worshipped this bird that could not fly.

And they used its bones, beaks, and feathers in a variety of rituals and decorative items. However, it is likely that their limited technology and reverence for the natural world prevented them from eradicating the Great Auk, which they nonetheless hunted and consumed.

Great Auks Lifelong Partners

Similar to other contemporary avian species, such as the Bald Eagle, Mute Swan, and Scarlet Macaw, the Great Auk exhibited tight monogamy, with men and females remaining faithful partners until their demise. The Great Auk only lay one egg at a time.

Which was nurtured by both parents until it hatched—a more concerning trait given its eventual extinction. These eggs were highly prized by European enthusiasts, and excessively aggressive egg collectors who were blind to the harm they were causing destroyed Great Auk nests. 

The Razorbill is the Nearest Living Relative of the Great Auk

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the razorbill as a species of “least concern,” meaning that while the Great Auk has been extinct. For nearly 200 years its closest living relative is still quite common and can be observed by birdwatchers.

Similar to the Great Auk, the Razorbill inhabits the northern Atlantic coast and, like its more well-known antecedent, it is a vast but sparsely populated bird, with as few as one million breeding pairs worldwide.

The Great Auk Could Swim Well 

Auks Fact And information: Great Auks were nearly worthless on land, waddling slowly and awkwardly on their hind legs and occasionally flapping their stubby wings to pull themselves over steep terrain, according to contemporary observers.

But in the water, these birds were as quick and hydrodynamic as torpedoes; their fifteen-minute breath hold allowed them to dive several hundred feet in search of food. (Of course, the Great Auks’ thick coat of feathers protected them from the bitter cold.)

James Joyce Made a Reference to The Great Auk 

At the beginning of the 20th century, the doomed bird most familiar. To civilized Europe was not the Passenger Pigeon or the Dodo Bird, but rather the Great Auk. The Great Auk is not only mentioned in passing in James Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses.

but it is also the subject of a short poem by Ogden Nash that draws. A comparison between the Great Auk’s. extinction and the precarious state of humanity at the time, as well as. A novel-length satire by Anatole France called Penguin Island

Bones from the Great Auk have been found as far south as Florida. 

Auks Fact And information: Given that the Great Auk was suited to the extreme cold of the northern hemisphere. How did some fossil specimens get up in Florida of all places. One theory holds that the Great Auk was able to temporarily expand. Its breeding grounds southward due to brief cold spells. That occurred around 1,000 BC, 1,000 AD, and the 15th and 17th centuries. Additionally, there’s a chance that some bones ended up in Florida. As a result of Native American tribes actively trading artifacts.

8 Facts About the Great Auk