Boid of the Day

This week, Bloomsbury authors Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy give us a glimpse of everyone’s favourite flightless seabird, the Great Auk …



The Great Auk is second only to the Dodo in the extinct bird familiarity stakes. This large seabird populated the wide expanse of the North Atlantic. The largest of the auk family, it stood just a little shy of three feet tall in its stockinged feet. It most resembled a penguin and was equally as flightless, which didn’t help it in its fight or flight from extinction, making it easy prey for hunters.

But like a penguin, it was a true creature of the sea. In the water its wings would have
proved to be powerful oars steering it on its course, and it would have proved to be a bird of agility, a surging swimmer, and a devourer of fish.

There was a dreadful acceptance of the demise and imminent disappearance of the Great Auk, and frenzied specimen collection before it became extinct was a bizarre additional pressure on the last of the birds. The last known pair of Great Auks were both killed on Eldey Island, off the coast of Iceland, on 3rd June 1844. Some fishermen discovered this last pair, with the female sitting on a single egg. The birds were strangled and sold as museum skins, while the egg was smashed. The last solitary sighting of a living bird was made off the Newfoundland Banks in 1852. The bird was never seen again.


Ralph and Ceri’s Extinct Boids will be released into the wild on the 26th of October. Order your copy now!

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