The auk is a bird that looks a penguin because of their black and white plumage.
The auk is a bird often mistaken for a
because of their black and white plumage. They walk upright like penguins and they have similar habits. However, these birds belonging to the family Alcidae (order Charadriiformes) and are not related to penguins.
There are 22 species (21 are living). The main three are the Great Auk, the Little Auk or Dovekie, and the Razorbill. Extant (subfamily Alcinae) include puffins, auklets, murres, murrelets and guillemots.
The Great Auk was the largest auk of all, but has been an extinct bird since 1844. The Great Auks bred and lived in colonies on rocky island coasts like St. Kilda, Iceland, and Funk Island just off of Newfoundland.
Standing at about 30-34 inches high and weighing in at 11 pounds, the Great Auk was an impressive flightless bird. The Great Auk had brownish/black webbed feet, white and black glossy feathers, and a black beak. On either side of the head was an area of white feathers.
The Great Auks used their wings to swim under the water and catch fish. Each year, this species laid one egg and incubated it on the bare ground, until it hatched in June. The eggs' coloring was yellowish white to a light yellowish-orange color. Black, brown or gray spots were patterned toward the larger end of the egg.
Great Auks were not afraid of humans, so they were vulnerable to humans who hunted them for food and feathers. Eventually, the human demand for their skins, eggs, meat and feathers drove them to extinction as hunters killed them off one by one.
The Little Auk is a small, black and white auk, and the only member of the genus Alle. Coastal mountainsides in the high Arctic are their breeding ground. They nest in huge colonies and build their nests beneath huge rocks or in crevices. Just like the Great Auk, they lay only one egg. The Little Auk is only 19 to 21 centimeters long. The adults have white under parts along with a black head, back, neck and wings. Their bill is stubby and short.
Little Auks are
diving under the water to catch primarily crustaceans. In Southern Greenland and Iceland, the Little Auk seems to be decreasing in population, but otherwise, this species of auk is considered safe.
The Razorbill is much larger than the Little Auk. This species is the only living member of the Alca genus. The Razorbill will reach up to 43 centimeters in length as an adult. The Razorbills have white on their belly and breast with all black upper parts. During the winter however, the black face of a Razorbill turns white. This auk species gets its name from its huge bill.
Large colonies of Razorbills will breed and nest on islands, cliffs and rocky shores on the northern Atlantic coasts. They'll lay their eggs on a hard rock or the bare ground. They've been seen as far south as Maine, west to Europe, northwest in Russia and in northern France.
This species is an avid fish eater, enjoying herring and capelin. Razorbills are web-footed birds, which helps them in swimming under the water. Before taking off from the water, Razorbills will "run" on the top of the water and then fly into the air.
The auks' only seabird competitor (for food) is the cormorant, but even so, the auks tend to forage further offshore to avoid them.
is considered to be safe from extinction at this time.