What is a great auk?



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    The great Auk is an extinct flightless bird that looked somewhat like a penguin (in fact, the word “penguin” was originally given to them, and Southern Hemisphere penguins got it later), and was closely related to the albatross and puffin. Like the dodo, it is an example of a bird driven to extinction by human hunting; the last one died some time in the mid 19th century. Originally their range was all over the North Atlantic, from the US coastline to Iceland and the UK, and almost as far north as the Arctic Circle.

    Great Auks had black and white bodies, with large wedge-shaped beaks. They walked very awkwardly, making them easy to hunt, but were great swimmers. They are thought to have stayed at sea for long periods, coming on shore on low-lying islands to breed.

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