Pinguinus – Greak auk

The last of these beautifully glossy, black and white birds were hunted in 1844 off the coast of Iceland

The great auk is an extinct flightless Alcidae species with distinctive black upperparts and white underparts. The Razorbill (Alca torda) is its closest living cousin, as shown by DNA tests and morphological and biogeographical investigations.

The great auk was utterly defenseless against predators such as ruthless and resourceful humans. The birds were forced back into more isolated places after being driven away from their most accessible nesting islands. They only bred on a few islands in the early 1800s since landing was difficult for these awkward birds.

For more accessible access to the water, the great auk is bred on rocky islands with gradual slopes to the sea. The foraging regions were in open ocean waters with chilly temperatures. The great auk was a piscivore with a high level of specialization. Following an analysis of bill dimensions, the most common prey was fish measuring 14-19cm (5.5 – 7.5 in) in length.