The flightless great auk, Pinguinus impennis or gare fowl, was the largest of the great auks, swimming and diving birds once common to the North Atlantic in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles, and Scandinavia.
About the size of a goose, black above and grayish white below, the flightless great auk was easily slaughtered in its breeding grounds for its flesh, feathers, and oil.
Surviving relatives of the great auk include the puffin, the razor-billed auk, and the guillemot.
Samples of the great auk can be seen in Chicago Natural History Museum (1994) and Center for Newfoundland Studies (skeleton 1995).
The great auk may be the inspiration for the coining of the word ‘penguin.’
A strong swimmer, the great auk wintered as far south as Florida and southern Spain.
The last known living pair of auks and one egg were taken in Iceland in 1844.