The Great Auk  Pinguinus impennis
  • Large breeding colonies of this flightless sea bird once gathered on rocky islands and coasts of the North Atlantic in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles and Scandanavia. A strong swimmer, the great auk migrated to winter as far south as Florida and southern Spain.
  • Its extermination began with a slaughter for food and eggs by local inhabitants, but its fate was sealed when bird feathers became fashion items.
  • On June 4, 1844, three fishermen named Jon Brandsson, Sigurdr Islefsson and Ketil Ketilsson made a trip to the Icelandic island of Eldey. They had been hired by a collector named Carl Siemsen who wanted auk specimens. Jon Brandsson found an auk and killed it. Sigurdr Islefsson found another and did the same. Ketil Ketilsson had to return empty handed because his companions had just completed the extinction of the great auk.
  • Our museum has in its collections a single egg. The egg was presented to the University by Mr. R. Hay Fenton who had purchased it, at a cost of 190 guineas, at an auction in London on February 9, 1909.
Great auk


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