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THE GREAT AUK. 539 Friendless bird! How is it possible for her to rear such a numerous family, when surrounded by so many enemies. Not only does man contrive many schemes to entrap them, but many of the rapacious quadrupeds and birds are ever ready to make them theirp rey. The mink followst hem in the woods with as unerring skill as does the setter dog, while the red-tailed hawk huntst hem in more open ground. THE GREAT AUK. BY PROFESSOR JAMES ORTON. THE recent addition of a specimen of this rare bird to the SmithsonianM useum, is an event worthyo f record. There are now three specimens in the United States; the one just mentioned,,a nother in the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and a third in the Giraud Cabinet in Vassar College. The last is the most perfect specimen, and cer- tainly possesses the greatesth istoricalv alue, as it is the one fromw hichA udubon made his drawing and description. It was caught on the banks of Newfoundland. The Great Auk or Gare-fowl,*f ortunatelyf or itself did not live long enough to receive more than one scientific name-Alca impennis. It was about the size of a goose, with a large head, a curved, grooved and laterallyf lattened bill; wings rudimental, adapted to swimlmillngo nly, ap- proachinogi n this respect the penguins of the southern hemisphere. The toes are fullyw ebbed, the hind one want- ing; the plumage is black, excepting the under parts, the tips of the wings, and an oval spot in fronto f each eye, which are white. It was an arctic bird, dwelling chieflyi n *Buffon called it Le Grand Pengouin. loehring adds the tribal name Chenalopex (fox goose) to distinguishi t fromt he rest of the Alcidae. .
540 THE GREAT AUK. the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, alnd Newfoundland*. "Degradecl as it were fromt he featheredr ank (said Nuttall), and almost numberedw ith the amphibious monsterso f the deep, the Auk seems condemned to dwell alone in those desolate and forsaken regions of the earth." But it was an unrivalledd iver,a nd swamnw ithg rreatv elocity. . One chased by Mr. Bullock amion g,t he NorthernI sles, left a six-oared boat far behind. It was undoubtedly a match for the Oxfords. It was finallys hot, however, and is now in the British Museum. "It is observed by seamen," wrote Buffol a hundred years ago, "that it is never,s een out of sound- ings, so that its appearance serves as ain infallible direc- tio] to the land." It fed on fishes and marinep lants, and laid either ill the cleftso f the rocks or in deep burrowsa solitarye gg, fivei nches long, with curious markings, resem- bling,C hinese characters. The only noise it was known to utterw as a gurgling sound. Once very abundant on both shores of the NorthA tlsantici,t is now believed to be entirely extinct,n one having,b eenls een or heard of alive since 1844, when twvow ere taken near Iceland.t The death of a species is a more remarkablee ventt hant he end of an imperial dynasty. In the words of Darwin, "no fact ill the long historyo f the world is so startlinga, s the wide and. repeated exterminationo f its inhabitants." What an epoch will that moment be when the last man shall give lp the ghost ! The upheaval or subsidence of strata, the eln- croachmentso f other animals, and climatal revolutions-by which of these great causes of extinction now slowly but * Audubon records the statement that formerly " Penguins were plentiful about Nahapt and some other islands in the bay." But the old gunner, who gave him the information, mnst have meant the Razor-billed Ank. [[ That the Gr(at Auk was once very abuni'danto n our New England shores, is proved beyond a doubt by the large nu nbler of its bones that have bee,, foulld in the ancient " Shellheaps " scat- tered along the coast from British America to Massachusetts. The "old baunter" wbo told Audubon of Its leaving been found at Nabant, was undoubtedly correct in his statement, as we have bones of the species takeii from the Shellheaps of Marblehead, Eagle Hill in Ipswicb, and Plumb Island, and Mr. Elliot Cabot has iinformedm e tbat an old fisherinan living In Ipswich described a bird to him, that was captured by his father in Ipswiclh many years ago, which, from the description, MXlCr.a bot was convinced was a specimen of the Great Auk. -F. W. P.] t Owen makes this singular mistake: " The Great Auk existed in the last century; no specimen has been obtained in the present." .
TIIE GREAT AUE. .541 Fig. 83. _: _ _ | mlg g ll i . | : , . . _ i ,, A - l--|: -- E _ ,, ,_ _ - . I a_ l _ l . _ - ,ZJ/E'i -l - --- Id, - - ::- -: a | i ! / il}_ : j j | S /,, i /12 --- -- - : | | BY X toy -. sI S | | g,,, '/'X,-, ,,-, f- -- . ,_ X1.g :=ff Tlle GRE AT AUK, Alcfci mpends Linnsells. Copied from Audubon, Plate 46a. .