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

Sharp-tailed Grouse

Capt. Clark, September 12, 1804--Saw Several Villages of those little animals [Barking Prarie Squirrels], also a great number of Grous and 3 foxes. . .

Capt. Clark, October 7, 1804--this Island is nearly 1 1/4 miles Squar no timber high and Covered with grass wild rye and contains Great Number of Grouse.

Capt. Clark, February 13, 1805--Set our early, Saw great numbers of Grouse feeding on the young Willows, on the Sand bars. . .

Capt. Lewis, April 15, 1805-- I also met with great numbers of Grouse, or prairie hens as they are called by the English traders of the N.W. these birds appear to be mating; the note of the male is kuck, kuck, kuck, coo, coo, coo.  the first part of the note both male and female use when flying.  the male also dubbs (drums his wings) something like the pheasant, but by no means as loud.

Capt. Lewis, May 21, 1805--the growse or prairie hen are now less abundant on the river than they were below; perhaps they betake themselves to the open plains at a distance from the river at this season.

Capt. Lewis, May 22, 1805--passed the entrance of grows Creek 20 yds. wide, affords but little water.  this creek we named from seeing a number of the pointed tail prairie hen near it's mouth, these are the first we have seen in such numbers for some days.

Capt. Lewis, March 1, 1806--The Grouse or prairie hen is peculiarly the inhabitant of the Great Plains of Columbia they do not differ from those of the upper portion of the Missouri, the tail of which is pointed or the feather in it's center much longer than those on the sides.  this species differs essentially in the construction of this part of their plumage from those of Illinois which have their tails composed of f[e]athers of equal length.  in the winter season this bird is booted even to the first joint of it's toes.  the toes are also curiously  bordered on their lower edges with narrow hard scales which are placed very close to each other and extend horizontally about 1/8 of an inch on each side of the toes thus adding to the width of the tread which nature seems bountifully to have furnished them at this season for passing over the snow with more ease.  in the summer season those scales fall off.  they have four toes on each foot.  their colour is a mixture of dark brown redish and yellowish brown and white confusedly mixed in which the redish brown prevails most on the upper parts of the body wings and tail and the white underneath the belley and lower parts of the breast and tail. they associate in large flocks in autumn and winter and are frequently found in flocks from five to six even in summer.  They feed on grass, insects, the leaves of various shrubs in the plains and on seeds of several species of spelts and wild rye which grow in the richer parts of the plains.  in winter their food is the buds of the willow and cotton wood also the most of the native berries furnish them with food.

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