Talk:Great auk

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South Iberian fossils[edit]

Appearently, its range extended far south than in the article, up to Porto Santo. Given that this paper is still considered reliable, this should still deserve a mention — Preceding unsigned comment added by Chaoyangopterus (talkcontribs) 09:21, 17 December 2012 (UTC)


I've seen several references that put the Great Auk in the Laridae family of the Ciconiiformes. Any thoughts? - UtherSRG 15:42, 31 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Only Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy as adopted by the AOU goes for this radical scheme, the rest of the world uses Charadriiformes. Surely it should be Alcidae rather than the gulls, Laridae, anyway? jimfbleak 17:32, 31 Jan 2004 (UTC)
I see about twice as many lisings as Alcidae than for Laridae, and the family issue was more of my concern than the old S-A tax. - UtherSRG 17:41, 31 Jan 2004 (UTC)~
Some confusion might have arisen from the fact that all Auks are now placed in the Lari suborder. Family's still Alcidae tho. Will add to the evolution section of Auks on that. Dysmorodrepanis 22:36, 29 July 2006 (UTC)


I've seen the spelling "Great Aux" in use. Google image search, at the time of writing, actually lists images corresponding to those it produces when queried for "Great Auk". Three of them, actually. I tend to think that this is a typo - Google doesn't otherwise recognise the phrase - but was wandering whether anybody else has anything to say on the subject. -Itai 21:36, 17 Feb 2004 (UTC)

--- On the Great Auk's historical range, several web pages and books state that the bird was abundant as far south as Florida and the Mediterranean. Eg: "In prehistoric times, great auks (Pinguinus impennis) were abundant throughout much of the North Atlantic, from Florida to Labrador and from the Mediterranean to northern Norway, with a population possibly in the millions." (talk) 13:35, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

Etymology again[edit]

An alternative theory suggests that the word penguin comes from the Latin pinguis meaning "fat", referring to the plump appearance of the bird.

Which bird: the great auk or 'the' penguin? This is unclear on the penguin page as well. --Townmouse 19:30, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The Great Auk, in Welsh pen gwyn, 'white head' (referring to the prominent white patch on the head which distinguishes it from other auks), was the original bird to which the name "penguin" applied; this use was first recorded in 1536 in respect of islands off Newfoundland. Later, when explorers discovered similar-looking birds in the southern hemisphere, the name was applied to them as well. An alternative theory suggested by John Latham in 1785, now considered a learned folk-etymology, suggests that the word penguin comes from the Latin pinguis meaning "fat".

IMO the edits to the above para introduce several errors of fact and logic:

1. "Pen gwyn" is not the Welsh for Great Auk (carfil mawr). It's the Welsh for "white head".

2. The "white head" etymology is dubious and far from universally accepted. It's worth mentioning as a theory, no more. The "accepted" line is that the etymology is obscure (i.e. no-one knows really).

3. A white patch on the head is not the same as a white head. As the picture clearly shows, it looks more like a white eye. Are there any other birds called "xyz head" that only have a patch of xyz colour on the head? I don't know.

4. The Great Auk is not the only auk to have a white marking on the head. The puffin has much more white on the head. The Great Auk must be one of the most distinctive birds in the world (huge size, flightless), and hardly needed any distinguishing from other auks.

5. What's a "learned folk-etymology"? Sounds like an oxymoron. Folk-etymology is when, out of ignorance, someone distorts an unfamiliar word to make it sound like a familiar one ("ashfelt" for asphalt, etc). It doesn't just mean an erroneous etymology.

It would be good to see some documentary evidence, both for the "pen gwyn" theory and against the "pinguis" one. Otherwise I respectfully suggest MPF's changes should be reverted, since the only improvement they seem to offer is the author and date of the "pinguis" theory (John Latham in 1785). Flapdragon 22:44, 15 Feb 2005 (UTC)

The "pen gwyn" theory is straight from the OED etymology for "penguin". Prob. < Welsh pen gwyn white head (< pen head, headland (see PEN n.1) + gwyn white: see GWYNIAD n.) ... The attribution of the name penguin to ‘the Welsh men’ (cf. quot. 1577 at sense 1a), and its explanation as Welsh pen gwyn white head, appears also in Ingram's Narrative, and later in Sir Thomas Herbert's Travels (in the edition of 1634 as a surmise, and in the edition of 1638 as an accepted fact).
It mentions the "pinguis" theory as a footnote: An alternative derivation of the name < classical Latin pinguis fat (see PINGUID a.) or an early association with this word is therefore possible and may be supported by the relative frequency of forms in pin- in most languages from an early date.
Regardless, doesn't any information on the etymology of "penguin" belong at penguin, rather than here? Vashti 14:52, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Perhaps the John Latham pinguis theory is superfluous here, but in context the penguin etymology does seem relevant, since (if you believe the theory) it's the "white head" of the auk not the penguin that is the origin of the name. Incidentally I'm surprised OED puts it as strong as "prob[bably]" since by their own account it's no more than surmise and hearsay. Flapdragon 15:59, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Does anyone have a reference for John Latham? I assume it's from his Index Ornithologicus. The OED does have a 1678 source for the theory: 1678 J. RAY tr. F. Willughby Ornithol. 322 The Birds of this kind..the Hollanders from their fatness called Penguins. ImmortalWombat 13:19, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

I'd like to see the etymology section put back in. As a matter of fact, "aponard" or "apponatz" was one of the most commonly-used early names at least by the French, and the etymology of that term (and the fact that it appears, suspiciously but maybe just confusingly, in Thevet's discussion of Ascension Island) would well warrant a discussion.

Or rather make a common-names section in which there is a breief summary of the etymologies, basically the essence of what's at Penguin.

Re carfil mawr - is this the old Welsh name or the modern one? (Were they different - i.e., could it be that pen gwyn is a folk name used during the bird's lifetime and carfil mawr is the modern name used by bird fanciers and in ornithological texts in Welsh as there may be?)

This does call for dedicated refwork. The original sources - namely "1577" - would need to be reviewed. I have some other sources - on "aponard", and some more Native American/Inuit names etc I think - and would like to do the editing work because it is very interesting and involves the kind of digging deep that I like. But first, the following needs to be cleared up:

  • what is the first source pen gwyn, carfil mawr and "penguin" can be traced to? (IIRC Wormius in the early 17th cent. still called penguins "Anser Magellanicus" - "Magellan's Goose" - which is at least interesting to note. He also - IIRC again - discussed the Great Auk, but if so, I don't know under which name.)

This is not trivial or unimportant because most of these sources should by now actually be available as digital fulltexts at Gallica etc.

Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 03:16, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

I have found some further references that look interesting. Late 19th century discussions of the etymology of "penguin". Will follow these leads. Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 06:54, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

Checking Clusius (1605), 4 things come to note:

  • he does not refer to the Great Auk as "penguin" or somesuch but as mergus Americanus (non-Linnean - "American diver")
  • he refers to penguins as anser Magellanicus ("Magellanic goose")...
  • and as "pinguins" (plural, probably Latinized from an English source "penguyn", singular)
  • he explicity stated that "pinguins" are called thus because of the pinguedine qua erant praedite - "the fatness with which they are endowed". Moving closer...

The possibility that "pinguyn" etc, and "peng wyn" "penwing" "pingouin" or whatnot are false cognates should receive more research effort. I am certainly not the first person to notice this. Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 08:43, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

(That is not to say that Clusius' etymology is correct, but it surely is prof that it seemed reasonable enough to him.) Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 09:47, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

more on etymology: garefowl & geirfugl[edit]

It's remarkable that English-speaking people with no knowledge of Gaelic keep assuming that Gaelic speakers must be using a Norwegian or Germanic name for the bird. geir=spear, applied to a bird with a beak that looks nothing like a spear is weak. The bird was extirpated from most of the British isles because of commercial exploitation for its feathers and its rendered-down fat. Rendered fat, or tallow, is "geir" in Gaelic. See online: A Gaelic Dictionary in Two parts by Robert Archibald Armstrong. Google translate also gives gwêr as Welsh for tallow or wax. (Tallow, meat, feathers and eggs were the four products for which the bird became over-exploited in the first place.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:01, 28 December 2017 (UTC)

You said much the same below already, and the danger here is that it's a constructed etymology. The similarity of the Norse and the Gaelic is hardly a coincidence (fowl and fugl are certainly connected), and there's no reason to criticise the spear-wielding Norse of a millennium ago for noticing correctly that the bird had a large sharp beak. Chiswick Chap (talk) 06:31, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
And in any case, we can only do what the sources say. Ancient Scandinavians hardly used Gaelic loanwords for native birds in their own countries, and fowl is clearly of Germanic origin, so "garefowl" is hardly a native Gaelic word. I have a cousin called Thorgeir, by the way, it is a pretty common word. FunkMonk (talk) 23:11, 14 January 2018 (UTC)

Morbid curiosity[edit]

How (and why) was the last pair killed? Looks like there's probably documentary evidence of it since the date is known. Tempshill 16:58, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

The last great auks were killed to be mounted as collectors' specimens. They looked impressive in a glass case (though not as impressive as in real life, I daresay) and their increasing rarity made them ever more collectable. Since they couldn't fly or run fast they were easy to kill with a club. The story goes that the last one killed in Britain (on St Kilda in 1840) was clubbed to death because it was thought to be a witch. I don't know if it's true but it seems sadly credible. Flapdragon 10:16, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
I heard this story too, that the last great auks were killed to be mounted as collectors' specimens. Is there a reference to it somewhere?Kuifjeenbobbie 14:06, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
The last pair were strangled to death. Their skins were sold, and their current whereabouts are unknown. Their internal organs remain, preserved in alcohol at the University of CopenhagenMHDIV ɪŋglɪʃnɜː(r)d(Suggestion?|wanna chat?) 13:40, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

killed as a witch - lacks credibility:probably a sales pitch for an illustration[edit]

This tale feeds off the trope of the Gael as savage-primitive, used as advertising spin/sensationalism. The Witch of St Kilda 1840 is a pencilled-in title or note on a colour illustration of what was allegedly the last bird caught in the British Isles; done in a handwriting style of a later era, and probably added when the illustration was offered for sale. First, the "witch" tale is only credible to people who unquestioningly accept ignorant-savage cliches about inhabitants of remote Scottish islands. The St Kildans were still seeing this bird in the 19th century, so even those personally unfamiliar with it in 1840 still knew its name. The St Kildans told English-speaking visitors that they knew the bird as a "geir" fowl: this is a word in both Irish & Scottish Gaelic meaning tallow or fat/grease. (See Robert Archibald Armstrong's A Gaelic Dictionary in Two Parts). Tallow and feathers were the products for which the bird was commercially over-exploited. Secondly, any St Kildan (and most natives of Scotland's islands today) can immediately see that a great auk looks almost exactly like its closest relative the razorbill, (alca torda). The differences are (a) scale and (b) a single detail of summer plumage. Razorbills are still a common sight. Thirdly, other writers report the St Kildans as saying they regarded the garefowl as the "king of the seabirds". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:42, 28 December 2017 (UTC)

Ketilsson the egg-murderer[edit]

On the 3rd of June 1844 off the coast of Iceland, three fishermen discovered the last two living Great Auks. They were a breeding pair with a single egg. Jon Brandsson and Sigourer Iselffson clubbed the adult birds to death, while Ketil Ketilsson smashed the egg with his boot.

Reverted this copyvio morsel with its unlikely-sounding and unattributed detail contradicted on other websites. Flapdragon 00:52, 29 April 2006 (UTC)


The recently added photographs by user messybeast are incredibly good. I have put them in a wiki table.Snowman 17:42, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

If only ...[edit]

If only DNA from museum secimens could be analysed and used to reconstruct live birds. Perhaps some tissue samples could be deep frozen to prevent further deterioriation of the DNA ready for when DNA biology is more advanced.Snowman 08:59, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

The prospects of ever cloning an organism from museum specimens prepared in the conventional manner (dried skin) are vanishingly small. My understanding is that the DNA is almost completely degraded after death. DNA can be recovered, but it is mostly mitochondrial DNA, a tiny fraction of the genome, and not the genomic DNA, which codes for most of the characteristics of the organism. It is hard to find good discussions of this on the Internet--this article discusses a recent study of Cave Bear DNA. The investigators were able to recover about 6% of the animal's DNA--enough to understand its relationships to livng bears, but not nearly enough to attempt a reconstruction of the animal, even if such technology were available--it is not, currently. (Current efforts to clone extinct animals have been based on fresh-frozen tissue, or tissue preserved in alcohol, not dried skins. These efforts have not been successful to date.) See also Talk:Passenger Pigeon for a brief discussion. I feel the whole discussion of cloning the Great Auk or any other extinct animal is speculative, and does not belong in Wikipedia articles discussing the biology of a species. Perhaps there should be a separate article on Cloning extinct species. This is discussed, briefly, in Cloning, but there needs to be a more thorough presentation of the dificulties. --Cotinis 14:22, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
I understand that the cost of sequencing DNA halves every 2.7 years, so what will be possible after 50 years (or longer) is not easy to predict today. Increased DNA sequencing capacity can be extrapolated into the future because of the predictable past increase. This is a bit like Moore's law for computer speed. If 6% can be recovered now, then I feel, that it is likely that 100% will be recovered with advanced technology in the future. There would be millions of skin cells in each great auk specimen and each cell contained a whole DNA genone originally. Increased DNA sequencing capacity would allow many more cells to be squenced - perhaps the DNA (however small the total DNA from each skin cell) can be sequenced from 1000s or 10,000s of skin cells individually and the genone sequence pieced together. This is a very complex tast, by todays methods, but what if DNA sequencing is 1000 or 10,000 times cheeper than today and computers are very much quicker too. There are many great auk egg specimens, but I am not sure what is inside them. I understand that there are two specimens of great auk viscera. Futureology is a respected science and should be featured in an encyclopedia, I feel, as long as the speculation is justifiable. Snowman 19:18, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
Interesting ideas--I hope you are proven correct in the future. As a former research biologist (dabbled a bit in molecular biology), I am not so optimistic. The big problem is that there are enzymes inside every cell that degrade DNA and proteins. These enzymes are released on death of each and every cell, and virtually instantly degrade much of the genetic information. Furthermore, certain DNA sequences may be more easily degraded, meaning that the same areas will be degraded in every cell--the information will be gone in all cases. It may do no good to be able to sequence DNA very rapidly if the sequences are gone. In addition, nobody has any idea, at present (that I know of), how to reassemble the chromosomal structure from DNA sequences. All cloning efforts of vertebrates so far have been working with intact cells, including the chromosomes and associated proteins.
How do you differentiate futureology from speculation? Do you have verifiable references for these ideas? If so, they are fine in an article, but again, I'd say that such ideas belong in a separate article, or part of an article. Otherwise one will have this discussion for each extinct species. I just don't feel it belongs in individual species accounts until the stage when it has actually been applied to a particular species. Thanks for listening. --Cotinis 12:26, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
I respect your edits. A good idea to have a separate page about this sort of cloning. A new page for these topics would be a focus for editors to form a balanced article. Snowman 12:45, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm not going to suggest any changes right now. I feel the article really needs some work in terms of describing the basic biology of the species and what is known about it, and a good set of references. I have a couple of good printed references on the Great Auk, and this one is on my "to do" list for some major additions. I guess the etiquette is to post a major revision to the talk page first. (I'm fairly new to Wikipedia.) You'll see that when if and when it happens. Best wishes, --Cotinis 16:00, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

2 and a half years after this discussion and genetic technology has now advanced to the stage where Great Auks can be revived. Scientists are now working on reviving a frozen mammoth. (talk) 14:41, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Don't stop believing. Tempshill (talk) 05:51, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Symbolic status[edit]

The Greak Auk has become a symbol of Man's inconsideration to animals and the importance of biodiversity.

Has it? How so? The dodo and the quagga are symbols of man-made extinction but most people have never heard of the great auk. What does it tell us about the importance of biodiversity? Removed this unsupported assertion till it can be put into a more encyclopaedic form. Flapdragon 19:49, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Just thought I would I link the quagga to the article in wikipedia as almost nobody has ever heard of it. I thought it was a typing error! Quagga lol. You're sometimes funny Flapdragon!

Fate Of The Last[edit]

I've heard about the story of the the last two: "They were incubating an egg, and tried to escape when they saw the sailors. One was caught on land, but the other managed to escape to the sea. Even so, it got briefly stuck between rocks, and was captured as it struggled free. Both were killed via clubbing. The egg was smashed under some guy's boot." Is this true? Dora Nichov 07:30, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Urban myth, I think. Snalwibma 14:58, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

See above. Flapdragon 14:01, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
It's back in the article. Tempshill (talk) 05:52, 16 February 2009 (UTC)

Related to south pole bretheren?[edit]

Are Great Auks Penguins in the same sense as Southern Hemisphere Penguins, are they related? OR are they both called penguins but due to appearance? Either way the article should speculate. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 02:45, 26 January 2007 (UTC).

No, auks and penguins are different, though they're both seabirds. Dora Nichov 12:57, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

And the article does already "speculate" on the name-link between great auk and penguin, as suggested by the anonymous contributor. Maybe it would be a good idea to read the article before asking a question which is answered within it! Snalwibma 14:56, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Royal Ontario Spoof/Myth[edit]

A specimen skin of The Great Auk has been kept in a safe, along with a skin of the also extinct labrador Duck, at the ROM. (Royal Ontario Museum)in Toronto. Both specimens have been in the safe for so long now that any individual who had the combination to the safe have long since passed. At present, no one knows the condition of the skins as the safe has not been opened in more than 80 years. 20:37, 2 February 2007

A likely story. Flapdragon 13:44, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

Extinction date[edit]

can we have some backing up that the date is correct. An article fom NS puts the date as the 2nd of June 1884. MHDIV ɪŋglɪʃnɜː(r)d(Suggestion?|wanna chat?) 13:35, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Can you give the NS article? Looks like a typo to me - I think "1848" is sometimes given... thats why I wrote "early 1850s" IIRC. 1884 is rather unbelievably late; there is no record at all from the 1870s and 1860s I know of, so it would be weird if an actual 1884 record would have received so little attention.
I know that much of the late 19th century studies (by Newton or so) are around as PDF, possibly for free. Maybe a modern summary, maybe even the original. Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 06:49, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

Extinction month[edit]

In the current versions of the French and English articles (at least), the extinction date is said to be 3rd July 1844, but in other articles (including the German and the Korean ones at least, as well as a number of "google results"), they say 3rd June 1844. Unless reliable evidence is provided, I think the article could have no precise date at all concerning the killing of the last specimen and still be good :). --Eiku (talk) 17:16, 28 May 2011 (UTC)

Could someone with access to the mentioned references check the month, please. There is still conflict between at least the English and German article. Thanks. --Aeroid (talk) 08:07, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

Extinct animals of the United States[edit]

Will the anonymous person posting from 125.164... please first show some evidence that the great auk was found in the USA before yet again adding the category "Extinct animals of the United States". Thanks. Flapdragon 03:24, 12 April 2007 (UTC)

I didn't do that, but... would the AOU's official opinion be enough? ;-)

Seems fair enough! Thanks. Flapdragon (talk) 23:23, 21 February 2008 (UTC)


Would the Great Auk be defined as megafauna? --Maurice45 (talk) 17:54, 7 March 2008 (UTC)

NO! unless you saw it like the overfed dodos in captivity. -

Floating Disembodied Head of Mario (talk) 21:51, 9 June 2008 (UTC)

Extinction causes[edit]

I would like to put it up for consideration to add the fishing industry as a major cause of the extinction of this wonderful bird. It is mentioned in several books that I have read that there was a deliberate effort to eliminate this bird since it was providing too much competition for fishermen.. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:20, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

In popular culture[edit]

The Great Auk was mentioned in Popular webcomic Questionable Content Kilshin (talk) 13:35, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

It's mentioned in all sorts of places. But this article does not need to catalogue them all. SNALWIBMA ( talk - contribs ) 13:46, 25 March 2009 (UTC)
Yes, but that's what a popular culture section is about. Kilshin (talk) 17:07, 26 March 2009 (UTC)


Redo refs 24 on down. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 03:22, 9 May 2009 (UTC)


Under "Relationship with humans," the last sentence says "Later, European sailors utilized the auks as a navigational beaker..." Should "beaker" (which makes no sense) be "beacon" (which is obviously what was meant)? Paulburnett (talk) 00:58, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

That seems to be the right correction. Now fixed. Shyamal (talk) 02:13, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

A user wrote this on the article page - moved here to tidy up[edit]

Suckish~ Why nobody put whether it's solitary or group? AIYO~

Just in case anyone wants to address this. (Msrasnw (talk) 12:39, 11 January 2010 (UTC))

In Distribution, it mentions that the auk breeds in large colonies, while in Ecology and behavior, it points out that it migrates south for the winter in pairs or small groups. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 19:12, 27 April 2010 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Great Auk/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Xtzou (Talk) 17:45, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

(beginning review) Comments

  • "had a white patch over the eye" - one patch over one eye, or what?
Done. Each eye.
  • "Great Auk pairs mated for life and met in early to mid May" - they separate after pairing, then meet again the following May?
LOL. They mate for life, but originally meet at that time/ that was the start of their breeding cycle. I eliminated the second half (intro is a touch long anywho) and will make sure Reproduction makes that clear.
  • "The legs were far back on the bird's body to give it more powerful swimming and diving abilities" - sounds like evolution had a goal in this case.
  • "The auk’s calls included low croaking and a hoarse scream. A captive auk was noted to give a gurgling noise when anxious. It is not known what its vocalizations were like, but it is believed that they were similar to those of the Razorbill, only louder and deeper." haven't you just said they have a low croaking and a hoarse scream?
Calls and vocalizations differ in meaning. To ornithologists. Added the word other in there so it makes more sense.
Ecology and behavior
  • "The auk used its bill aggressively both in the dense nesting sites" - but don't they lay eggs on bare rocks?
But the auks still nest together. Bare rocks, but close enough that neighboring nests are within bill's reach.
  • How is it that the orca was a main predator?
New link.
Article as a whole
  • I think that there are too many images. They even bleed down into the references section. I know that it is hard to part with images, but the Auk basically looks the same in all of them. You should pick the ones that show special features. In my opinion, it diminished the value of the individual images when you have so many. When there are a chosen few, the reader does not skip over them but lingers on each one.
Eliminated two pictures.
  • I keep wishing that you would say which Native Americans you were referring to, as a great many did not live in the areas frequented by the Auk. Mostly, I imagine you were talking about those in the very north. Did some of the articles mention specific tribes?
Yesish, with several mentioned by name elsewhere. I put "coexisting with the Great Auk" next to the two just NAmericans mentions.
  • In general, this is a fine article and worthy of GA. I would appreciate it if you would address the few issues I have raised, as well as the dead link.

Xtzou (Talk) 21:56, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

Thank you for reviewing the article. I've replaced the dead link and will actually sit down with the review later. One question though- what do you mean by "how is it that the orca was a main predator"? They both are aquatic, so what eliminates the possibility? Thanks again, and I should knock this out within the next six hours. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 22:02, 1 May 2010 (UTC)
The Auk was a swift and strong swimmer, so why would an orca have the advantage, being much larger and most likely slower? Also, do Orcas hang out in shallow water. You said the Auk doesn't go deep frequently because of the energy involved. And why orcas, of all large predators? (Since the Auk became extinct before much about marine life was known - compared to today's knowledge - is some of these just hypotheses and guesses about the Auk?) Xtzou (Talk) 22:35, 1 May 2010 (UTC)
Looking into that. Be back soon. Thank you again for the review; I think everything but the orca is fixed. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 02:51, 2 May 2010 (UTC)
The source says probable. However, orcas eat penguins, cormorants, and sea gulls, so they have it in them. Orcas do hang in shallow water- they have to breathe and they are often seen near shore by tour boats. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 03:11, 2 May 2010 (UTC)
  • Further comments
  • I had to change that one sentence so it doesn't seem like evolution has specific goals.
Oh, thats what you meant. Sorry I didn't get it, and good catch.
  • Could do with one less picture (one of the stuffed ones could go), but I know that is a matter of opinion. What is the illustration "Bones from a kitchen midden" supposed to show? The caption is not enlightening.
I tend to like articles where there is always a picture on the screen as you scroll through. Additionally, there are only three stuffed auks, one in the infobox, one showing the front, and one at the end. I don't see this as overkill. I cleared up the caption.
  • I cringe a little seeing the caption In popular culture, as it may encourage additions if the Auk is mentioned on an episode of the Family Guy or the likes. Can you think of a different name for that section?
Stole "Cultural depictions" from Superb Fairywren.

Xtzou (Talk) 15:19, 2 May 2010 (UTC)

Think I answered your new comments. Thank you. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 20:52, 2 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, you have. Thanks! Xtzou (Talk) 21:07, 2 May 2010 (UTC)

GA review – see WP:WIAGA for criteria

  1. Is it reasonably well written?
    A. Prose quality: Clear and concise writing
    B. MoS compliance: Complies with the basic MoS
  2. Is it factually accurate and verifiable?
    A. References to sources: Sources are reliable
    B. Citation of reliable sources where necessary: Well referenced where needed
    C. No original research:
  3. Is it broad in its coverage?
    A. Major aspects: Broad in scope
    B. Focused: } Remains focused on topic
  4. Is it neutral?
    Fair representation without bias:
  5. Is it stable?
    No edit wars, etc:
  6. Does it contain images to illustrate the topic?
    A. Images are copyright tagged, and non-free images have fair use rationales:
    B. Images are provided where possible and appropriate, with suitable captions:
  7. Overall:
    Pass or Fail: Pass!

Congratulations! Xtzou (Talk) 21:08, 2 May 2010 (UTC)

Thank you so much for the review. Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 21:26, 2 May 2010 (UTC)

FAC nomination[edit]

Just an admonition: I hope you realize that the FAC criteria are very different from the GA criteria. Passing as a GA in no way endorses the quality as being at the FAC level. Xtzou (Talk) 00:51, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

Yes, I know. Is there anything you've noticed that would stop a FAC? Rufous-crowned Sparrow (talk) 00:58, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

Spanish and Portuguese[edit]

9] Spanish and Portuguese sailors called the bird pingüinos, which means "fat bird"

I'm not aware of any usage of "pingüino" as "fat bird" in Spanish. My impression is that the word is a (more or lest) recent loan word from English. To back this, think that when the Spanish first visited the Falklands in the 16th century they called them "Islas de los Patos" ("Duck islands") presumably for lack of a better word to describe the native penguins.--Menah the Great (talk) 10:59, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Dubious claims[edit]

After reading "Great Auk" (Fuller, 2002) and "Who Killed he Great Auk?" (Gaskell, 2001), it appears to me that this article takes many dubious claims and old descriptions of appearance and behaviour at face value. It is stated that a human body has been found covered in auk skins, but in reality only 200 beaks were preserved surrounding it, that they were attached to a cloak is simply inferred. What is the statement that they were preyed on by orcas and polar bears based on, how can this ever be proven? And nothing is known of the appearance of the chicks, other than a single description saying they were gray and downy. It can of course be inferred that they looked like this, but isn't it safer to state that nothing is known? Also, it is unknown whether the grooves on the beaks were actually white, since only some remains have this feature, and it is unknown if it is simply paint or not. FunkMonk (talk) 00:32, 25 December 2011 (UTC)

I had come across a snippet of the 2002 version of The Birds of North America in my quick google search and it only stated that polar bears, killer whales, and sea eagles "probably preyed on Great Auks" (p. 38). I find that very dubious. Shall I put that tag back? Perhaps for all three species? SaberToothedWhale (talk) 20:13, 6 June 2012 (UTC)
It could at least be removed from the intro. In the article body itself, we could maybe write "it is claimed by x that x, x and x preyed on the great auk" or some such. Also, all we know about its behaviour is from old, unreliable accounts by fishermen and similar, not by "modern" naturalists, who did not observe live birds. Therefore, most books take the accounts with a grain of salt, but this article appears to take them as fact. In fact, the article may gain from the inclusion of actual quotes from the people who saw it, which are all in the public domain. FunkMonk (talk) 22:28, 6 June 2012 (UTC)
Furthermore, all info in the reproduction section is based on very few contemporary accounts, we need to give reference to who made these observations and how reliable they were. FunkMonk (talk) 23:03, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Apologist article[edit]

Currently the first line of the intro reads:

The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), formerly of the genus Alca, was a large, flightless alcid that became extinct in the mid-19th century.

"that became extinct in the mid-19th century." Surely "that was hunted to extinction in the mid-19th century." would be the most pertinent description regarding this creature.

At present the title suggests that it simply became "extinct"; thus it "ceased to exist". The purpose of the introductory line is to give a practical and concise précis (summation) of the entire article. This does not. Particularly as several introductory paragraphs go on to to give much details regarding the human cause for this species' extinction. (talk) 07:51, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Also in that first line: - The Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis), formerly of the genus Alca, was a large, flightless alcid - Surely the word alcid is out of place as an introduction. Can't it just be a large flightless bird? The link on alcid redirects to auk anyway which is not very helpful. The great auk is an auk does not enlighten us much. Doug (at Wiki) 09:05, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Someone else has done this.Doug (at Wiki) 16:03, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Moreover, in that line the parenthetic "formerly of the genus Alca" is not necessary for the introduction. It is covered properly in the taxonomy section. Doug (at Wiki) 09:50, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

If no objections I will make these changes. Doug (at Wiki) 09:50, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Done! Doug (at Wiki) 16:07, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Hunting is the most likely explanation for extinction, but there could be other factors... were they caught in fishing nets? Suffered habitat or pollution pressure? -MacRùsgail (talk) 16:39, 5 December 2012 (UTC)

Inuit names[edit]

I don't have the Cokinos source but isarukitsck looks very dubious spelling. I've checked the Inuktitut dictionary by the Nunavut Dept of Culture [1] which lists appaq and the interwiki to Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) has apparluk - but both are actually not the Great Auk, so for starters the interwiki is wrong. The Nunavut dictionary gives isaruq for wing, I'm still looking for that strange ending. In any case, isarukitsck as a spelling is at least out of date. Does anyone have a more up to date source with an up to date spelling? Akerbeltz (talk) 11:55, 3 July 2012 (UTC)

Auk from the front[edit]

Semi profile, only image I uploaded to Commons

Struck me that all depictions show the auk in profile. So as a little service for those who may care, here are some pictures I took of the Zoological Museum of Copenhagen summer specimen which shows it from the front and in semi profile[2][3], no room for the images in the article though, unless it is expanded further. FunkMonk (talk) 18:47, 4 July 2012 (UTC)

Synonym dates[edit]

They don't show up, seems there is some template error? FunkMonk (talk) 22:18, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

Prejudiced tone in article[edit]

In reading the article, Europeans and Neanderthals are depicted as barbarous predators, murdering the birds and smashing the eggs at every opportunity. In contrast, Native Americans are said to "coexist" with the birds making them a significant part of their culture. Why, one burial had the beaks of 200 birds in it... wait... 200 bird beaks do not 'coexist' with the Native American burial. Rather, the birds were SLAUGHTERED by the Native Americans for ceremonial purposes. 200 for just one burial? No wonder they went extinct in North America! I believe the tone should reflect facts, not the Fantasy that the North American natives (who migrated from Asia and slaughtered most of the remaining Megafauna) coexisted peacefully with nature. --Winged Brick (talk) 04:07, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

Take a look at this[edit]

This is from 2 years ago, but could somebody see if this is fake or not?-- (talk) 16:08, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

It was published on 1st April, so it has to be genuine. Shyamal (talk) 17:45, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
How the heck did I not notice that? Oh well.-- (talk) 14:27, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Requested moves[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved. Armbrust The Homunculus 11:40, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

– Invert the redirections as the consensus and guidelines recommend not to capitalise the common (vernacular) names of species. See Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style#Bird common name decapitalisation and Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Animals, plants, and other organisms. Coreyemotela (talk) 19:59, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

  • Speedy close and move Red Slash 01:09, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Support there does not appear to be anything remotely controversial here.-- (talk) 01:04, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

No alternatives[edit]

" molecular data are compatible with either view," Alternative views have not been presented.--Wetman (talk) 19:59, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

I think this article needs a cladogram. How many genetic studies have been published that include this bird? After all, the arbitrary rank is meaningless, what matters is its position on the cladogram. And another thing, the intro is huge compared to the article length, should probably be shortened. FunkMonk (talk) 20:05, 6 December 2014 (UTC)

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Former distribution of the great auk[edit]

On the map in the beginning, nine former breeding sites for the great auk are given (St. Kilda, Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands, the Faroe Islands (most probably Fugloy), Geirfuglasker in the Vestmannaeyjar, Geifuglasker (before 1830) and Eldey (after 1835) in the Fuglasker (off Reykjanes), "southernmost Greenland" (a bit misplaced, should be close to Frederikshåb = Paamiut, on south-western Greenland), Funk Island, Penguin Islands off Cape la Hune (south of Newfoundland) and Rochers aux Oiseaux (Bird Rocks) in the Gulf of St. Lawrence). However, under "Distribution and habitat", only five of these nine (or maybe ten, if Geirfuglasker and Eldey are counted as two) known former breeding colonies are given (St. Kilda, Papa Westray, Eldey, Funk Island and Rochers aux Oiseaux), but, as a surprise to the reader, "Grímsey Island" (at the north of Iceland) is also given. As far as I have been able to find in the extensive scientific literature, Grímsey was never known as a breeding site of the great auk, but if I am wrong, please give some good reference to the place of publication of this locality. Maybe it can not be said that the localities of the former breeding colonies of the great auk in the Faroe Islands and at Greenland "are known", but the two different islets called Geirfuglasker off south-western Iceland should be mentioned in the text, as Penguin Islands south of Newfoundland (compare Montevecchi W.A. & Kirk, D.A. 1996: Great Auk. -- The Birds of North America, No. 260). Much more probable (but not "known") breeding sites than "Cape Cod" include Calf of Man, Streymoy and Svínoy among the Faroe Islands, the islets Hvalbakur and Tvisker off south-eastern Iceland, the vicinity of Holsteinsborg = Sisimiut on south-western Greenland, Penguin Islands off Cape Freels (eastern Newfoundland) and some island off Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, possibly Portnova Islands. Also, the text at the photograph of Stac an Armin gives it as "one locality where the great auk used to breed"; as far as I have been able to find out, the exact place in St. Kilda where the great auks were breeding is not known, but Hirta (or possiby Soay) are much more probable than Stac an Armin. The German version of Wikipedia has a much better representation of the known former breeding sites; compare also the Faroese one. /Erik Ljungstrand (Sweden) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:25, 13 March 2016 (UTC)


Wasn't the great auk discovered June 2015 to be not quite extinct... Schissel | Sound the Note! 22:18, 17 September 2016 (UTC)

Eh, according to what? FunkMonk (talk) 19:26, 18 September 2016 (UTC)

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Extinction date[edit]

In this edit, [4], Aukward Jess changed the lede description of the extinction event to the dates 2nd-5t of June 1844, based on an 1861 source. In the main article, we have 3 July 1844 (which is the date that is generally kicked around in tertiary+ sources) based on a 2007 source. I don't have access to either source, but date usage within the article should at least be consistent. Does someone have the capability to check? --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 20:00, 3 July 2017 (UTC)

All the sources I have at my disposal ("The Doomsday Book of Animals," by David Day, "Extinct Birds" by Errol Fuller, and "A Gap in Nature" by Tim Flannery) all say 3rd June, 1844 was when the last living great auk was seen.--Mr Fink (talk) 20:21, 3 July 2017 (UTC)
  • I reverted because that edit is awkward (not in FA format/style), and the lead doesn't require this specificity or sourcing. Drmies (talk) 22:49, 3 July 2017 (UTC)

New to editing wiki pages but just wondering why the corrected extinction date removed? I am a published great auk researcher (See the section regarding the organs of the last two individuals). I have read countless papers and books and all say the Eldey Island voyage in which the last two individuals ever reliably seen were killed occurred between 2nd-5th JUNE 1844, as I showed in the citation to Newton, 1861, who along with John Wolley interviewed the fishermen of that trip! I'm sorry Drmies if it wasn't formatted correctly but the information was correct and so should be changed back (Aukward Jess (talk) 09:39, 4 July 2017 (UTC)) (talk) 09:39, 4 July 2017 (UTC))

Aukward Jess, leaving aside the issue of style in the lede (that's easily dealt with) - be aware that Wikipedia sometimes gets caught in the quandary of "true" versus "published". If a dozen reliable sources say date X, and you say date Y, then it's date X we will be using, based on preponderance of sources; even if yours is unimpeachable scholarship :) Basically, your interpretation would have to gain some currency and see some secondary use by others before Wikipedia should report it in favour of the established one, barring exceptional factual circumstances. (Maybe those are present here - if you clearly show that someone swapped July for June somewhere along the way?) - That being said, do you have any idea why a wrong date would have been in use for all that time? --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 11:39, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
Sheesh - next time, I should read before I type. Checked three sources now, all say JUNE - which is actually what Apokryltaros also says above. It appears the July date in the text body is plain wrong. No idea whether the named source contains the error, though. How about correcting the date there, and swapping in Aukward Jess's source instead? --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 11:47, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
Elmidae, it seems you already have enough material to make the switch: go for it, and add Jess's source, formatted like the others. Drmies (talk) 12:51, 4 July 2017 (UTC)

I have no idea who was the first to incorrectly state it was July, or when this happened, but I can assure you that the correct date is 2-5th June 1844. I have several papers and books in front of me at this moment all stating the same. National geographic have an 'on this day' type feature listing the great auk extinction date as 3rd July, promoting several incorrect tweets by high profile organisations yesterday (and in years gone by). I guess it may have originally been a typo on an online source and it was spread from something like that due to lack of fact checking! I have emailed NatGeo and tweeted the correct information to some of the high profile users in the hope to get the message out. Newton, 1861 was the first to have published the date and so should be referenced. Like I said, he and John Wolley were the ones to interview the fishermen who killed the last pair. Wolley died before he could publish his findings but Newton published the information from Wolley's notebooks ('Garefowl books'). Since then it was been quoted in nearly every great auk publication. The July date, as far as I am aware from my lit research has never been in any published material (journal article or book), only online resources which do not contain a citation to original source. I hope this back ground information helps and you agree the date should be listed as 2-5th June. I have spent the last 4 years researching the great auk as my PhD is on their evolution and extinction so I think I have the credentials to back this. Thanks (Aukward Jess (talk) 13:07, 4 July 2017 (UTC))

Right, sorted. Heh - Issue 3 of Ibis, 1861. Venerable journal :) --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 13:16, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Ugh, does this mean it was on a wrong date when it was on the front page July 3?[5] FunkMonk (talk) 20:04, 5 July 2017 (UTC)
Oops. Well, I gather there was no outcry of garefowl mavens at the time... --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 08:43, 6 July 2017 (UTC)
A year later, but FYI the Audubon Society has 3 July as the extinction date. howcheng {chat} 07:37, 2 July 2018 (UTC)

"Is" Versus "Was"[edit]

Can someone explain why there is a grammatical precedence to use "was" instead of "is," even though saying "was a flightless seabird" creates the implication that it is no longer a flightless seabird and or that the taxon is no longer valid? I mean, the fact that it's dead doesn't change the fact that it still remains a flightless seabird, but, I was repeatedly told by an IP-hopping editor that an artist, like myself, isn't apparently certified to know anything about English grammar.--Mr Fink (talk) 23:07, 3 July 2017 (UTC)

  • It's not "grammatical precedence". It's style that will dictate one over the other, style and semantics. And I disagree re: semantics--"...was a flightless seabird" doesn't mean it's no longer a valid taxon; it means it's dead, which it is. These things are not so easy. Saying "the Great auk is extinct" is a correct statement, sure, and saying "the Great auk was extinct" is incorrect, since it's still extinct (one supposes). But saying "the Great auk is a flightless bird" is odd in a realist sense since, well, there is no Great auk, at least not a living one. The ontological (and denotational) issues pertaining to such constructions, and the presuppositions that come along with them, are treated to some extent in Definite description, and there's an entire monograph dedicated to the subject. Here on Wikipedia it seems that we treat dead things as if they're still living, at least in some cases; but William C. Perry, I see, is a "was". At heart, of course, the problem isn't in the verb or the tense, but in what you want "Great auk" to mean--what kind of entity it is supposed to denote. Oh, it's dinner time! And time for editors here to get a consensus that acknowledges the matter is complex and the dictum of preterite over present, or the other way around, is somewhat arbitrary but reached via consensus. Drmies (talk) 23:47, 3 July 2017 (UTC)
I thought "is an extinct flightless seabird" was an accurate, adequate and unambiguous statement describing the Great auk and its current situation, but it's apparently not because I'm an artist, and artists' judgements concerning grammar are apparently magically invalid.--Mr Fink (talk) 00:09, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
Oh, don't pay those edit summaries too much attention. Drmies (talk) 01:32, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
How could "is an extinct flightless seabird" apply if the word extinct no longer applies? (Or did I miss something?) Schissel | Sound the Note! 11:08, 17 September 2019 (UTC)
Thanks Drmies, sagacious advice :) Well, I took a little survey of the more prominent recently extinct species, and our usage is actually less consistent than I'd thought. Haast's eagle, Tarpan, Quagga, Steller's sea cow, Rocky Mountain locust and Passenger pigeon use "is"; Carolina parakeet, Moa, and Thylacine use "was/were". Admittedly, Thylacine's first sentence is "was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times", which would be misleading to have in present tense. - So, going by usage alone, "is" seems to be preferred although by no means cast in stone. I'd suggest that preferred is a good enough reason not to push past tense into the lede against multiple disapproval. --Elmidae (talk · contribs) 06:38, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Elmidae, I think it may be worth your while to ask a few of the FA dinosaurs, if they still roam the earth, and maybe drop a note on the FA project talk page? It's not the first time I see an edit war break out over this. Thanks, Drmies (talk) 12:49, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
  • A species is always a species, whether extinct or not. FunkMonk (talk) 08:48, 2 July 2018 (UTC)
This one is more auk-ward. More seriously, the first three featured articles I looked at for extinct species use was: "The dire wolf was about the same size...", "The woolly mammoth was roughly...", "the dodo was about..." Jonathunder (talk) 17:27, 2 July 2018 (UTC)
That is an unrelated issue. We are talking about the first sentence of the intro. Is a species vs was a species. FunkMonk (talk) 17:43, 2 July 2018 (UTC)
Interesting. And there we see is: "The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is an extinct flightless bird", for example. Jonathunder (talk) 17:52, 2 July 2018 (UTC)