Great Auk

Great Auk and Egg - Kelvingrove, Glasgow. Wikipedia Commons

Great Auk and Egg – Kelvingrove, Glasgow. Wikipedia Commons

The Great Auk was a flightless black and white bird a bit like a large Razorbill. The Great Auk inhabited the rocky coasts and islands of the North Atlantic along the East coast of the USA, Scotland, Shetland and Ireland to Greenland and Iceland, almost to the Arctic Circle. It was driven to extinction due to hunting in the 19th century. There are specimens of the bird and its eggs in many museums… including Kelvingrove in Glasgow and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh (Z.1895.71).


To the left is the cover of a superb book by Errol Fuller entitled The “Great Auk” which gives much detail on the species.

One of the excellent images in the book is an oil painting by Errol Fuller himself entitled “A Last Stand” [from] …


Jan Thornhill - Tragic Tale of the Great Auk - CoverThe Tragic Tale of the Great Auk
Jan Thornhill

Children’s book author and illustrator produced a wonderful book with artwork of the Great Auk and its demise. Available, for example, at Amazon.

An article on Jan Thornhill’s digital creation of the paintings is here.

Derek Robertson – Studies Of The Lost And Gone – Great Auk

In February 2020 Derek Robertson, a wildlife artist based in Fife Scotland, was part of a group of artists that visited the National Museum of Scotland’s ornithology collections facility at Granton. He painted two watercolours based on the Great Auk in their collection. These are part of his “Studies Of The Lost And Gone” (see

“Field Studies Of The Lost And Gone – Great Auk” – Watercolour on Two Rivers Paper

“Museum Studies Of The Lost And Gone – Great Auk” – Watercolour on Two Rivers Paper

I am pleased to say I now own these two watercolours.

The museum visit and images of Derek Robertson’s sketches and paintings were covered in an article in Scottish Birds Volume 40(2) June 2020 pp.131-132.

Some Literature

An ‛Aukward’ Tale: A Genetic Approach to Discover the Whereabouts of the Last Great Auks

  • Jessica E. Thomas, Gary R. Carvalho, James Haile, Michael D. Martin, Jose A. Samaniego Castruita, Jonas Niemann, Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding, Marcela Sandoval-Velasco, Nicolas J. Rawlence, Errol Fuller, Jon Fjeldså, Michael Hofreiter, John R. Stewart, M. Thomas P. Gilbert and Michael Knapp
  • Genes 2017, 8(6), 164;
  • Online versions and PDF:


There have been suggestions of a “revival” of the species by The Long Now Foundation – Revive and Restore. See the following article from The Daily Telegraph (20 August 2016 – Page 3) …


National Museum of Scotland – Great Auk Specimen Z.1895.71

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