Great Auk! Replica of extinct bird sells for £25,000

A replica of a bird which became extinct nearly 200 years ago has sold at auction for £25,000.

The great auk, which was hunted to extinction in the mid-19th century for its feathers to make pillows, was the only modern species of the genus Pinguinus.

The flightless black and white bird was found at breeding sites across the North Atlantic coastline and was made subject of conservation laws to try and preserve it.

The great auk sold for £25,000 to a French collector (Dominic Winter Auctions/PA)
The great auk sold for £25,000 to a French collector (Dominic Winter Auctions/PA)

This replica was made by Rowland Ward Ltd in around 1922 to meet demand from collectors and was usually made from razorbill feathers, though the beaks had to be made from scratch.

It was purchased by Captain Vivian Hewitt, a well-known aviator, ornithologist and conservationist and was part of a collection from the David Wilson Library of Natural History.

The bird was inside a glass case and mounted on sand and faux rocks.

The great auk went under the hammer at Dominic Winter Auctions in South Cerney, Gloucestershire and was expected to fetch between £500 and £800.

Auctioneer Chris Albury said: “This super-fine replica caused a saleroom sensation with a winning phone bid of £25,000.

“I’m sure most of the bidders would rather see a live one rather than pay a lot of money to own a stuffed one.

“I think it has a similar aura to its more famous extinct cousin the dodo.

“Though the beneficiary of early conservation laws these were sadly ineffectual, and the bird became extinct in the mid-19th century

“I privately had high hopes for this and thought it might well get into the thousands but that’s astonishing.

“There were 10 phone lines but they were kept waiting as the internet took it on and well past £10,000 before any of the phones were allowed a look in.”

The great auk was bought by a taxidermy collector in France.