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Great Auk
Great Auk
Recreation of a Great Auk
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Background
Type Living Fossil
First Sighting 1850 or '52 (confirmed)
Last Sighting 2010 (unsourced)
Country North Atlantic, Arctic
Habitat Rocky shores, small offshore islands
Possible Population Likely 0, or very few

The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), also known as the Northern Penguin, is a now-extinct species of flightless seabird that once inhabited the North Atlantic region. Belonging to the family Alcidae, it was one of the largest auks, standing about 75 to 85 centimeters tall and weighing around 5 kilograms. The bird had black and white plumage, with a distinctive black head and a large, thick beak.[1]

Habitat and Range[]

Historically, the Great Auk inhabited rocky islands and coastal areas across the North Atlantic, from Canada and Greenland to Iceland, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. They primarily nested in colonies on remote islands, where they could access the rich marine resources of the surrounding waters.

Behavior[]

Great Auks were highly adapted to life in the ocean, using their powerful wings to swim underwater in pursuit of fish, their primary food source. They were social birds, often congregating in large colonies for breeding purposes during the summer months. Although flightless, they were excellent swimmers and could cover long distances underwater with ease.

Extinction[]

Human activities, particularly overhunting and egg collecting, led to the rapid decline of the Great Auk population. Their docile nature and the ease with which they could be caught made them easy targets for hunters. Additionally, the harvesting of their eggs for food further exacerbated their decline. The last confirmed sighting of a live Great Auk was in 1852 on the island of Eldey off the coast of Iceland. By the mid-19th Century, the species was declared extinct.

GreatAukMap

A map of the Great Auk's historical range

Cultural Significance[]

The Great Auk holds cultural significance in the folklore and traditions of indigenous peoples inhabiting the regions where it once thrived. Its striking appearance and unique lifestyle have inspired myths and legends, and its extinction serves as a cautionary tale about the impact of human activities on vulnerable species.

Cryptid Status[]

While the Great Auk is officially recognized as extinct, there have been sporadic reports of sightings and alleged evidence suggesting that small populations may still exist in remote, uninhabited regions of the North Atlantic. However, these claims lack scientific credibility, and there is no concrete evidence to support the existence of living Great Auks. Nonetheless, the bird remains a subject of fascination and speculation among cryptozoologists and enthusiasts of mysterious creatures. The last confirmed sighting of a Great Auk was in 1850.

Unconfirmed Sightings[]

Razorbill corpse

An alleged Great Auk corpse, revealed to be a Razorbill

  • In 1885 a British fisherman stopped in Iceland to get supplies, while he was rowing back to England he saw a bird he described as "an Orca penguin".
  • In 1970 a woman and her friends claimed to have seen 3 of them on an island off the coast of Iceland.
  • In 2002 scientists recorded a video of a penguin-like bird in the Faroe Islands.[2]
  • In 2010 a crew saw a penguin like creature from Iceland's dinner boat.
  • In 2018 an alleged corpse of a Great Auk was found. It was revealed to be a dead Razorbill, as seen by the wing.
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