Great Auk Islands: a field biologist in the Arctic. By Tim Birkhead . Illustrated by David Quinn. T. & A. D. Poyser, London, 1993. 275 pages; 14 colour plates; 91 black-and-white plates; 36 line-drawings. ISBN 0-85661-077-1. £22.00.The title of this book is a double entendre, using the strict definition of that phrase: 'to have two meanings'. This is principally an account of the author's experiences studying seabirds, mainly Common Guillemot Uria aalge and Brünnich's Guillemot U. lomvia, on islands in the Canadian High Arctic and ofif the coast of Labrador. Sandwiched within this is a section devoted to the Great Auk Alca impennis. One of the islands visited in the course of the author's seven summers in Canada was Funk Island, off the coast of Newfoundland, the site of one of the two known breeding colonies of Great Auks on that side of the Atlantic. It was this that stimulated thoughts on how these birds actually lived, and there follows a fascinating survey of the existing, often rather skimpy, knowledge of their breeding biology, fleshed out with careful deduction and hypothesis based on the author's detailed studies of the two smaller auks. By assembling the available evidence from old accounts of the bird and adding his own scientific judgments, Tim Birkhead concludes that the young of Great Auks were precocial, leaving the nesting site within a few days of hatching. 

Volume: 
Issue 12
Start Page: 
634
Authors: 
Shrubb, M
Redman, N
Ogilvie, M
Saunders, D
Display Image: 

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