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075 Auk
 

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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075 Auk

An auk, often mistaken for a penguin due to their similar black-and-white complexion, is a sea bird located along the coast of the northern hemisphere of the family Alcidae. Auks are generally small, ranging from six to eighteen inches, and are known for their exceptional swimming and diving skills in which they use to prey on fish and plankton. Moreover, auks have the ability to stand in the upright position due to the placement of their legs at the back of the body.

Auk

The feathers of the auk are used for the interior of coats and pillows to aid Esquimos and other travelers through harsh winter conditions. As mentioned earlier, a striking feature amongst auks (excluding the Great Auk) is their ability to swim. This allows them to hunt and reach their prey even if they must dive to the depths of the sea. Although auks have wings, they are dreadfully small and must be flapped very quickly to travel even the slightest distance. Thus, why most auks are seen floating along the currents of the shore. 

In Ragtime by E.L. Doctrow, the auk is mentioned in chapter ten during Fathers excursion with Peary in the Arctic. Father travels with Mathew Henson and three Esquimos nearly half a day to reach a bird cliff where there are an abundance of auks. Here, the men climbed cliffs with sealskin bags to collect the eggs of the auk; a delicacy in the Arctic. In addition to the eggs, the men filled their sealskin bags with living auks where they scurried and chirped helplessly. Eventually, the men killed each bird in the palm of their hands. Doctrow writes, “He held an auk in one hand and with his thumb gently squeezed the beating breast. Its head slumped and it was dead” (Doctrow, 76).

The size of an auk relative to a palm

Sources:

http://www.allthesea.com/Sea-Bird-Auk.html

Ragtime by E.L. Doctrow

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 September 2011 15:23  

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