Great Auk

Great AukThe Great Auk, scientifically known as Pinguinus impennis, was a large but flightless alcid. Large breeding colonies of this flightless sea bird once gathered on rocky and isolated islands. During non breeding periods, they spent time in coasts of the North Atlantic in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles and Scandinavia. A strong swimmer, the great auk migrated to winter as far south as Florida and southern Spain. According to the researches Funk Island was the largest known breeding colony.

The Great auk, measuring about 75-85 centimeters and weighing around 5 kilograms, was the largest of both its family and the order. The males and females were similar in plumage, but some distinction in femur length was observed. This species had black and white coloration of the body; back being black in color and stomach being white. Appearance, to some extent was similar to the penguins found at present. Fossil study says that the bill was large about 11 centimeters long and curved downwards at the top, the wings were only 15 centimeters in length and the longest wing feathers were only 10 centimeters long. The legs were developed for powerful swimming, present at way back of the body. The infants were seen gray and downy.
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Referring to history, these Auks were seen to walk slowly and used their wings while traversing through rain. They generally walked in straight lines. The natural predators were marine mammals such as Orca and white tailed eagles. This species is estimated to have had a maximum population in the millions. Its extermination began with a slaughter for food and eggs by local inhabitants, but its fate was sealed when bird feathers became fashion items. The last colony of Great Auks is believed to be lived on Geirfuglasker (the “Great Auk Rock”) off Iceland.

Posted by on Jan.04, 2012, under Info

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