Great Auk

Pinguinus impennis (Linnaeus, 1758) 6370
Family: Charadriiformes > Alcidae

The Great Auk was hunted to extinction for its meat and large eggs.

The last known British Great Auk was killed on St Kilda in the 1840s, a decade after the last Irish Great Auk had died in captivity, having been captured in Waterford Harbour in May 1834.

The name 'penguin' was used as early as the 16th century in association with the Great Auk, and may have its roots in the Welsh language, but was later transferred to the unrelated, but similarly evolved, birds of the southern oceans.


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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.


We have no population estimates for this scarce species.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Great Auk, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Sample sizes are too small to report Productivity and Nesting statistics for this species.


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Colcach-mhòr
Catalan: alca gegant
Czech: alka velká
Danish: Gejrfugl
Dutch: Reuzenalk
Estonian: hiidalk
Finnish: siivetönruokki
French: Grand Pingouin
German: Riesenalk
Hungarian: óriásalka
Icelandic: Geirfugl
Irish: Falcóg Mhór
Italian: Alca impenne
Latvian: milzu alks
Lithuanian: didžioji alka
Norwegian: Geirfugl
Polish: alka olbrzymia
Portuguese: torda-grande
Slovak: alka velká
Slovenian: orjaška njorka
Spanish: Alca gigante
Swedish: garfågel
Folkname: Garefowl

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