great auk

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In the spirit of the World Penguin day here are images of the so called “original penguin”. The great auk was the first bird to be called a penguin, even though it does not belong to the same group of birds that we today refer to as penguins. Historical records of colonies consisting of thousands of great auks are known, but the bird went extinct around 1840s when the last individuals were killed by bird collectors. A stuffed specimen of a great auk was bought by the Iceland’s Natural History Museum for $18,000- the most expensive stuffed bird ever sold. 

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Great Auk.
This was the largest known alcid (related to puffins and razorbills), and the only one known to be flightless. It was 30-33in tall and weighed around 11lb.

During summer they developed a white patch in front of each eye, which was replaced in winter with a white band. Great auk pairs were monogamous, and bred in very dense social colonies, brooding one egg each year and both caring for their chick after it had left the nest site.

The great auk was pressured by hunting for 100,000 years. By the mid-16th Century the European populations had all but been destroyed for their down, and as a food and bait source. By the time scientists realised the great auk was becoming increasingly vulnerable, it was too late. Museums and private collectors sought after their eggs and skins, further depleting their numbers. The last remaining pair of great auks were killed on 3rd July 1844, off the coast of Iceland.

Extinct animals on display at the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo from Flickr: [x

The display features a model of a dodo skeleton and taxidermy specimens of the Great Auk, Carolina Parakeet, Przewalski’s horse, thylacine, and two Passenger Pigeons. Though it is displayed with extinct animals in this exhibit, the Przewalski’s horse is currently classified as endangered; it was once considered extinct in the wild.

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And with that, the Bracket is Finished! 

I’ll start broadcasting each individual round tomorrow, but behold, the beautiful and wonderful dinosaurs of Dinosaur March Madness 2017! 

Kiwi, Gastornis, Tawny Frogmouth, Bee Hummingbird, Dodo, Whooping Crane, Great Auk, Little Penguin, Harpy Eagle, Burrowing Owl, Hoopoe, Phorusrhacos, African Grey Parrot, Blue Jay, Great Tit, and the Resplendent Quetzal are our Neornitheans! 

Feel free to download a copy of the full bracket and make predictions! I’ll be reblogging stuff tagged with #dmm2017 !!! 

ITS TIME TO SEE WHO WILL FOLLOW THE COMMON RAVEN AS THE. BEST. DINOSAUR!

Great Auk.

Humans hunted the great auk for over 100,000 years, and the seafaring Native Americans were especially intertwined with them. 

Unfortunately, they were considered delicious, had very downy feathers all over their huge bodies, and their skins preserved easily. The European populations were extinct long ago. The North American populations were extinct once Europeans populated the continent. The last confirmed Great Auks died in Iceland, in 1844.

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Last Candle Light


“To be extinct

is to have your life’s fire extinguished.

To be the Great Auk

is to be burnt alive instead of firewood, 

To be plucked naked

and set adrift in the wake

of your last kin’s funeral”


(This is the first in my illustrative series revolving around extinct animal species.)

Anyone who clings to the historically untrue— and thoroughly immoral— doctrine that ‘violence never settles anything’ I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.
—  Robert Heinlein, from ‘Starship Troopers’

anonymous asked:

Why are birds so amazing?

This is a tough question, and a very big question. Since it’s just about impossible to objectively explain why birds are amazing (they are, btw), maybe I can explain why birds amaze me and why they’re the focus of both my career and a significant portion of my recreational time.

1. Birds are dinosaurs that you can hold today.

Flashback to 2010, a time when little Redstart was thinking about applying to college. For a while I was convinced I would pursue animation and go be some awesome art director of nifty animated films starring animals. Then I realized that a) I wasn’t good enough or motivated enough to make it, and b) having art as a career would ruin creating art for me. So, then it was back to my other passion: paleontology.

I literally applied to college planning to be a geology/biology double major with a long-term career goal of being a professor of paleobiology. I doggedly pursued this game until my sophomore year of college, when I discovered birds.

Birds are dinosaurs. Just about everyone knows this now (thank goodness). The big, significant realization here is that you can study dinosaurs today. Think about the magnificent breadth and depth of scientific questions you can ask about an animal when it’s right in front of you, instead of turned into rock and shattered into a million fragments! Don’t get me wrong; paleontology is an awesome field. But instead of dedicating my life to recreating the world of millions of years ago, I decided to work on unraveling the mysteries of today’s dinosaurs.

2. Birds are Pokémon.

Stay with me, now! As a wee youth I was obsessed with Pokémon. Wait, I’m still obsessed with Pokémon. Well, it turns out that birding and bird banding are just about the closest thing you can get in real life to filling out the Pokédex.

Birds have the Goldilocks number of species, which makes them incredibly appealing to pursue, study, identify, and watch. Think about it! Mammals, while are certainly *~*~*charismatic*~*~*, are mostly nocturnal. There are also like 10 of them in the world (yes, that’s an undersell). Lame! Insects and other invertebrates are amazing, but there are too goddamn many for many laypeople to really get into (side note: my alternate field would probably be malacology because I love Mollusca). Fish have some good numbers and variety, but require getting into this whole aquatic sphere– a different world entirely and one that is not readily accessible to those of us who matured in NYC.

So there’s the numbers game and their incredible charisma at play here. Humans have trained their companion psittacids and cacatuids to speak, to understand; as intelligent social animals, we can feel a mysterious connection with birds in the same way that most humans feel an inherent connection with your typical charismatic megafauna, such as wolves and lions (*eyeroll*).

3. Birds are diverse.

Cassowaries are three-toed behemoths that can communicate in rumbling infrasound like elephants and kick a grown man to death. Woodcocks can see in 360 degrees without a single turn of the head. The booted racket-tail is a hummingbird about the size of a quarter with a tail three times its body length that goes torpid every night after its daily frenzy of foraging for nectar. The Chiroxiphia manakins coordinate sexual display in an incredible show of teamwork, after which only one male gets to mate. The bowerbirds build ornate structures that rival some human creations, and then dance and sing in front of them for a mate.

Albatross can maintain a pair bond for decades, and once their chicks fledge they may not touch solid ground for three years. Steller’s eiders from both North America and Russia winter together on the sea ice of the Bering Strait, where they fish for molluscs in the cold. Bar-headed geese fly over the Himalayas. Arctic terns breed as far north as the Arctic circle and winter all the way south in Antarctica, in the longest migration known to the animal kingdom. Martial eagles kill and eat small antelope by flying them up high and dropping them to the ground. Starlings and mimids can imitate hundreds of sounds. Numerous seabirds can go their entire life without a single drink of freshwater due to their advanced salt glands. 

…And so on. The breadth of the bird world is absolutely incredible. With roughly 10,000 species worldwide existing on every continent (something that cannot be boasted by many other taxonomic classes), birds have evolved to occupy so many amazing niches.

4. Birds matter.

Now, this isn’t to imply that other animals don’t matter! It is incredibly vital that we keep a steady stream of funding to all biological sciences,  but I must say that in my work with birds I have always felt that the research I’ve been doing plays its part in the greater scheme of things.

Birds are an easily seen indicator species; their high sensitivity can be informative about how the world at large is doing. As climate changes and anthropogenic disturbance increases, we can see bird populations shifting their range and phenology from year to year.

Since they are so prominent, birds have also been among the numerous species to face untimely extinction; take the story of the magnificent great auk, for example, which was rapidly hunted into oblivion due to its flightlessness and colonial breeding strategy. Carolina parakeet, passenger pigeon, Bachman’s warbler, ivory-billed woodpecker, Labrador duck: these are all species that used to be seen in North America that are nowhere to be found today. 

And it’s through some well-timed intervention spear-headed by biologists and conservationists that we have avoided the loss of other amazing bird species. The National Audubon Society keeps an egret in their logo, a nod to the birds that were almost destroyed in the hat trade. The Atlantic Puffin was completely extirpated from the Gulf of Maine until it was successfully reintroduced on Eastern Egg Rock. And remember the shitshow that was DDT? It was birds that let us know how much of a threat that pesticide was; brown pelicans, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, and more faced steep declines thanks to the substance.

These reasons just brush the surface of why birds are amazing– and yes, why I am constantly amazed by birds even though I look at them every day in my backyard or as part of my work. We haven’t even mentioned feathers, or vocalizationtheir incredible physiology, or the way they have inspired artists for centuries.

Getting into birds literally changed my life; it was a turning point for my career, for my mental health, and for my outlook on this incredible world that we live in. I want others to have similar realizations about the natural world! That’s why I run this blog, and that’s why I’ll never stop birding.

Prehistoric Documentaries

In the mood for a good ol’ prehistoric documentary? Well here’s a list of ones you can watch for free! Cause who doesn’t love free stuff? ;D

Ape To Man 
Animal Armageddon (Full Series)
Part 1
- Part 2
Australia’s First 4 Billion Years 
- Awakening
- Life Explodes 
- Monsters
- Stranger Creatures
Arctic Dinosaurs (NOVA)
Bizarre Dinosaurs
Clash of the Dinosaurs
- Extreme Survivors
- Perfect Predators
- The Defenders 
- Generations 
Dinosaurs Decoded
Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
Dinosaur Planet
- Pod’s Travels (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6,Part 7,Part 8)
- White Tip’s Journey (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6,Part 7,Part 8)
Dinosaur Revolution
- Survival Tactics
- End Game
Dinotasia
Extinct
- Dodo
- Great Auk
- Smilodon (fatalis)
Ice Age Death Trap (NOVA)
March of the Dinosaurs
- Part 1,Part 2,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6 
Monsters Resurrected
- Dinosaur King
- Giant Ripper
Monsters We Met
- Eternal Frontier
- The Burning
Planet Dinosaur - Lost World
Prehistoric Assassins - Blood In The Water 
Prehistoric Monsters Revealed
Prehistoric Dallas
Prehistoric Predators
- Dire Wolf
- Giant Bear
- Killer Pig
- Razor Jaws
- Sabretooth
Sea Monsters - A Walking with Dinosaurs Trilogy
- Episode 2
- Episode 3
Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy
The Birth of Humanity
The Dinosaurs (PBS)
- The Monsters Emerge
- Flesh on the Bones
- The Nature of the Beast
- The Death of the Dinosaurs
The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs
- Tyrannosaurus rex (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5)
- Velociraptor
Walking with Beasts
- New Dawn
- Whale Killer
- Land of Giants
- Next of Kin
- Sabre Tooth
- Mammoth Journey
Walking with Dinosaurs Special
- Land of Giants
- The Giant Claw
Woolly Mammoth - Secrets From The Ice

Playlists (Not full length documentaries)
BBC Walking with Dinosaurs
Dinosaur Planet 

- Admin Leopard

Could Britain Become Wild Again?


Britain once looked very different. In place of sheep-strewn fields and treeless uplands, there were vast natural forests, glades and wild spaces. Within them, wolves, bears and lynx roamed the land. The first Britons lived alongside woolly mammoths, great auks and wild cows called aurochs.

Could we return the UK to its wilder state? I spoke to a series of experts to find out more. Read the piece at BBC Earth.

Prehistoric Documentaries (Updated!)

I’m back once again with my masterpost of free prehistoric documentaries because it’s time for an update! I was able to find several more shows while browsing around and I’ve added them in. Please let me know if any of the links don’t work and feel free to suggest more programs I should try and find c:

Ape To Man
Animal Armageddon (Full Series)
- Part 1
- Part 2
Australia’s First 4 Billion Years
- Awakening
- Life Explodes
- Monsters
- Stranger Creatures
Arctic Dinosaurs
Before We Ruled the Earth
- Part 1,Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Bizarre Dinosaurs
Clash of the Dinosaurs
- Extreme Survivors
- Perfect Predators
- The Defenders
- Generations
Dinosaurs Decoded
Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia
Dinosaur Planet
- Alpha’s Egg
- Little Das’ Hunt 
- Pod’s Travels (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6,Part 7,Part 8)
- White Tip’s Journey (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6,Part 7,Part 8)
Dinosaur Revolution
- Evolution’s Winners
- Survival Tactics
- End Game
Dinotasia
Extinct
- Dodo
- Great Auk
- Smilodon (fatalis)
Extinct - A Horizon Guide to Dinosaurs
First Life
- Arrival
- Conquest
Horizon: My Pet Dinosaur
Ice Age Death Trap
Jurassic Park: The True Story
Last Day of the Dinosaurs
Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives
- Magic in the Rocks
- Putting Flesh on Bone
- Dinosaur
- The Rare Glimpses
Mammoths Unearthed 
March of the Dinosaurs
- Part 1,Part 2,Part 4,Part 5,Part 6
Mega Beasts - T. rex Of The Deep
Monsters Resurrected
- Dinosaur King
- Giant Ripper
Monsters We Met
- Eternal Frontier
- The Burning
Morphed
- Before They Were Bears
- When Whales Had Legs
Planet Dinosaur  
- Lost World
- Feathered Dragons
- Last Killers
Prehistoric Assassins - Blood In The Water
Prehistoric Monsters Revealed
Prehistoric Dallas
Prehistoric Park
- T. rex Returns
- A Mammoth Undertaking
- Dinobirds
- Saving the Sabre-Tooth
- The Bug House
- Supercroc
Prehistoric Predators
- Dire Wolf
- Giant Bear
- Killer Pig
- Razor Jaws
- Sabretooth
Sea Monsters - A Walking with Dinosaurs Trilogy
- Part 1,Part 2,Part 3
Secrets of the Dinosaur Mummy
The Birth of Humanity
The Dinosaurs (PBS)
- The Monsters Emerge
- Flesh on the Bones
- The Nature of the Beast
- The Death of the Dinosaurs
The Lost Dinosaurs Of New Zealand
The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs
- Tyrannosaurus rex (Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4,Part 5)
- Velociraptor
Valley Of The T. rex
Walking with Beasts
- New Dawn
- Whale Killer
- Land of Giants
- Next of Kin
- Sabre Tooth
- Mammoth Journey
Walking with Cavemen
- Part 1,Part 2,Part 3,Part 4
Walking with Dinosaurs 
- New Blood
Walking with Dinosaurs Special
- Land of Giants
- The Giant Claw
Walking with Monsters
- Part 1,Part 2,Part 3
When Dinosaurs Roamed America
- Part 1 & Part 2
Woolly Mammoth - Secrets From The Ice
Woolly Mammoth: The Autopsy

Playlists (Not full length documentaries)
BBC Walking with Dinosaurs
Dinosaur Planet

- Admin Leopard