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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Journals Lewis and Clark as Naturalists

Spruce Grouse

Capt. Lewis, March 3, 1806--The large black and white pheasant is peculiar to that portion of the Rocky Mountain watered by the Columbia river.  at least we did not see them in these mountains until we reached the waters of that river nor since we have left those mountains.  they are about the size of a well grown hen.  the contour of the bird is much tat of the redish brown pheasant common to our country.  the tail is proportionably as long and is composed of eighteen feathers of equal length, of an uniform dark brown tiped with black. the feathers of the body are of a dark brown black and white.  the black is that which predominates, and white feathers are irregularly intermixed with those of the black and dark brown on every part, but in greater proportion about the neck breast and belley.  this mixture gives it very much the appearance of that kind of dunghill fowl which the henwives of our country call dommanicker (Domanique).  in the brest of some of these birds the white predominates most, they are not furnished with tufts of long feathers on the neck as our pheasants are but have a space on each side of the neck about 2 ½ inches long and 1 in. in width on which no feathers grow.  tho' this is concealed by the feathers which are inserted on the hinder and front part of the neck; this space seems to serve them to dilate or contract the feathers of the neck with more ease.  the eye is dark, the beak black, curved somewhat pointed and the upper exceeds the under chap.  they have a stripe of vermillion colour above each eye which consists of a fleshy substance not protuberant but even with a number of minute rounded dots.  it has four toes on each foot of which there are three in front.  it is booted to the toes, it feeds on wild fruits, particularly the berry of the sac-a-commis, and also much on the seed of the pine fir.

Capt. Lewis continued his narrative about what he considered a second species; in fact, this is the female -

The small speckled pheasant found in the same country with that described above, differs from it only in point of size and somewhat in colour.  it is scarcely half the size of the other; associates in much larger flocks and is very gentle.  the black is more predominant and the dark brown feathers less frequent in this than the larger species.  the mixture of white is also more general on every part of this bird.  it is considerably smaller than our pheasant an the body reather more round.  in other particulars they differ not at all from the large black and white pheasant.  this by way of distinction I have called the speckled pheasant.  the flesh of both of these species of party coloured pheasants is of a dark colour and with the means we had of cooking them not very well flavoured.

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