The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk
- ISBN 13:
- ISBN 10:
- Format: Hardcover
- Copyright: 10/11/2016
- Publisher: Groundwood Books
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In this stunningly illustrated non-fiction picture book, award-winning author and illustrator Jan Thornhill tells the tragic story of these birds that weighed as much as a sack of potatoes and stood as tall as a preteen’s waist.” Their demise came about in part because of their anatomy. They could swim swiftly underwater, but their small wings meant they couldn’t fly and their feet were so far back on their bodies, they couldn’t walk very well. Still the birds managed to escape their predators much of the time until humans became seafarers.
Great Auks were pursued first by Vikings, then by Inuit, Beothuk and finally European hunters. Their numbers rapidly dwindled. They became collectors’ items their skins were stuffed for museums, to be displayed along with their beautiful eggs. (There are some amazing stories about these stuffed auks one was stolen from a German museum during WWII by Russian soldiers; another was flown to Iceland and given a red-carpet welcome at the airport.)
Although undeniably tragic, the final demise of the Great Auk led to the birth of the conservation movement. Laws were eventually passed to prevent the killing of birds during the nesting season, and similar laws were later extended to other wildlife species.