Great Auk (Pinguinis impennis)

The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) is an extinct flightless sea bird native to Iceland, Greenland, and the coasts of Canada, the UK, Norway, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, and Northern Spain. It became extinct in the 19th century when the last two living specimens were killed on Eldy off the coast of Ireland. Despite appearances, it was not related to penguins. It was the second largest bird in its family (30 to 33 inches tall). Only Miomancalla was larger. Northern auks tended to be larger than southern auks. It was an important part of Native American culture, both as a food source and as a symbolic item. However, demand for its down in Europe caused the Great auk to be over hunted, even after protection laws went into effect. As it only had one hatchling per year, it was unable to breed fast enough to replenish its population. The last sighting of the Great Auk was in 1852 on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.




Standing about 75 to 85 centimetres (30 to 33 in) tall and weighing approximately 5 kilograms (11 lb), the great auk was one of the largest member of both its family and the order Charadriiformes. Males and females were similar in plumage, although there is evidence for differences in size, particularly in the bill and femur length. The back was black, and the belly was white. The neck and legs were short, and the head and wings were small. The great auk appeared fat due to a thick layer of fat. During summer, it developed a wide white eye patch over each eye. During winter, the great auk lost this eye patch in winter, which was replaced with a wide white band and a gray line of feathers. During the summer, its chin and throat were blackish-brown and the inside of the mouth was yellow. In winter, the throat became white. The bill was large at 11 centimeters (4.3 in) long and curved downward at the top. It also had deep white grooves in both the upper and lower mandibles. The wings were only 15 centimeters (5.9 in) in length and the longest wing feathers were only 10 centimeters (3.9 in) long. Its feet and short claws were black, while the webbed skin between the toes was brownish black, and it accommodated the bird's aquatic lifestyle. The legs were far back on the bird's body.

Distribution and habitat[]

The great auk had a range of Canada,United States,Greenland,Northern Spain,Faroe Islands,etc.


It ate cod and other small fishes, such as Atlantic menhaden.


It was hunted to extinction by humans.

In the Media[]

  • The Great Auk was seen as a stuffed Museum Specimen in Batman The Animated Series Season 3 Catwalk on the Extinct Forever display with a few other stuffed Extinct animals. Then it along with the Tasmanian Tiger Wolf was stolen by Scarface to make money from them & almost sold it to Penguin.
  • The Great Auk appeared in the documentary series Extinct or Alive.


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Alcidae
Genus: Pinguinus

Bonnaterre, 1791

Species: P. impennis
Binomial name
Pinguinus impennis

(Linnaeus, 1758)