The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a large, flightless bird of the alcid family that became extinct in the mid-19th century. It was the only modern species in the genus Pinguinus, a group of birds that formerly included one other species of flightless giant auk from the Atlantic Ocean region.
On this day in 1844, the last Great Auk, a relative of puffins and razorbills, was killed on an island off the coast of Iceland. Humans hunted the Great Auk for over 100,000 years. With few natural predators, the Auk had no innate fear of people.
Extinct: Great Auk: These auks were flightless penguins from the Atlantic. They were one of the largest auks standing about 30-34 inches high. They had white and glossy black feathers, and were once seen in huge numbers in the northern frigid areas. Records show that they were hunted to extinction in these places.
11 Animals That Are Now Extinct... Thanks To Humans
The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a flightless coastal bird that bred on rocky islands around the North Atlantic, including in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles and Scandinavia. They were slaughtered in huge numbers until the late 18th century, according to the British Natural History Museum. Although hunting declined, the rare birds became a prized specimen for collectors and they were driven to extinction by the mid-1850s.
All that remains of the great auk now are 78 mounted skins (most from Eldey Island), 24 complete skeletons, 2 collections of preserved viscera, and around 75 eggs. The skinned corpses of Eldey island's last great auks are preserved in spirits at the Royal Museum in Copenhagen. In 1971, Iceland's Natural History Museum paid £9,000 for a stuffed great auk and had been willing to bid up to £20,000, if necessary, to acquire the specimen.