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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Locality Information Lewis and Clark as Naturalists

We can't all excel at everything, or expect that Lewis and Clark would. Skilled as they were at describing mammals and plants their bird descriptions were more uneven. Some birds were so thoroughly described that it is impossible to make a false identification. The poorer descriptions, though, make identifying some birds uncertain. There were also the mistaken identities. Lewis saw one water bird and decided it was a loon-it wasn't. Clark figured another bird was a gull, and it wasn't.
Nonetheless, they sufficiently described over 50 species of birds. Some birds were new to science and others that were known got their geographic ranges extended. Their references to the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet placed the ranges of the two well beyond the Mississippi River, the previous known limit. The California condor, or 'buzzard' as they liked to call it, is today found exclusively in warm, dry climates around the Grand Canyon and in southern California. Reading from the journals of Lewis and Clark we learn that this magnificent bird was common along the cool, damp Oregon and Washington coast. Adding to their triumphs, they did manage to get one western bird back to Washington alive, the raucous, black-billed magpie!
Greater 19th century ornithologists were to follow with the likes of Alexander Wilson and James Audubon, yet Lewis and Clark gave us the first glimpse of bird diversity west of the Mississippi River.

Species Common Name
Recurvirostra americana American Avocet
Corvus brachyrhynchos American Crow
Carduelis tristis American Goldfinch
Pica hudsonia Black-Billed Magpie
Dendragapus obscurus Blue Grouse
Larus philadelphia Bonaparte's Gull
Euphagus cyanocephalus Brewer's Blackbird
Selasphorus platycercus Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Gymnogyps californianus California Condor
Branta canadensis Canada Goose
Conuropsis carolinensis Carolina Parakeet
Aechmophorus clarkii Clark's Grebe
Nucifraga columbiana Clark's Nutcracker
Chordeiles minor Common Nighthawk
Phalaenoptilus nutallii Common Poorwill
Corvus corax Common Raven
Phalacrocorax auritus Double-crested Cormorant
Picoides pubescens and Picoides villosus Downy and Hairy Woodpecker
Sterna forsteri Forster's Tern
Larus glaucescens Glaucous-winged Gull
Perisoreus canadensis Gray Jay
Ardea alba Great Egret
Strix nebulosa Great Gray Owl
Bubo virginianus Great Horned Owl
Centrocercus urophasianus Greater Sage-Grouse
Anser albifrons Greater White-fronted Goose
Eremophila alpestris Horned Lark
Sterna antillarum Least Tern
Melanerpes lewis Lewis' Woodpecker
Lanius ludovicianus Loggerhead Shrike
Numenius americanus Long-billed Curlew
Calcarius mccownii Mccown's Longspur
Oreortyx pictus Mountain Quail
Zenaida macroura Mourning Dove
Colaptes auratus Northern Flicker
Fulmarus glacialis Northern Fulmar
Corvus caurinas Northwestern Crow
Gavia pacifica Pacific Loon
Ectopistes migratorius Passenger Pigeon
Dryocopus pileatus Pileated Woodpecker
Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus Pinyon Jay
Melanerpes erythrocephalus Red-headed Woodpecker
Podiceps grisegena Red-necked Grebe
Aythya collaris Ring-necked Duck
Bonasa umbellus Ruffed Grouse
Selasphorus rufus Rufous Hummingbird
Tympanuchus phasianellus Sharp-tailed Grouse
Falcipennis canadensis Spruce Grouse
Cyanocitta stelleri Steller's Jay
Cygnus buccinator Trumpeter Swan
Cygnus columbianus Tundra Swan
Larus occidentalis Western Gull
Sturnella neglecta Western Meadowlark
Piranga ludoviciana Western Tanager
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos White Pelican
Catoptrophorus semipalmatus Willet
Troglodytes troglodytes Winter Wren

Image Display <EM>Chordeiles minor</EM>
Chordeiles minor

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