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Great Auk


The great auk, Pinguinus impennis, was driven extinct as a result of centuries of intense human exploitation.
Large dense colonies of this flightless bird once gathered in summer on remote islands off eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland. Easy prey for hunters, they were slaughtered in huge numbers until the late 1700s for meat, eggs, feathers and oil.

Agile and streamlined in water, great auks moved clumsily on land, only coming ashore to breed. They could only waddle awkwardly at human walking pace. In 1844 a final unfortunate pair fled in vain from hunters, their single egg smashed.

By the mid-1850s the species was extinct.