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

California Condor

From the meteorology notes, October 28, 1805--first Vulture of the Columbia seen today.

Capt. Clark, October 30, 1805--here the river widens to about one mile with a large Sand bar in the middle, a great [rock] both in and out of the water, large Stones or rocks are also permiscuisly scattered about in the river, this day we Saw Some fiew of the large Buzzard Capt Lewis Shot at one, those Buzzards are much larger than an other of ther Spece or the largest Eagle white under part of their wings &c.

Capt. Clark, November 18, 1805--Rubin Felds killed a Buzzard of the large Kind near the whale we Saw  measured from the tips of the wings across 9 ½ feet, from the point of the Bill to the end of the tail 3 feet 10 ¼ inches, middle toe 5 ½ inches, toe nale 1 inch & 3 ½ lines, wing feather 2 ½ feet long and 1 inch 5 lines diamiter, tale feathers 14 ½ inches, and the head is 6 ½ inches including the beak.

Capt. Clark, January 3, 1806--a Small crow, the blue crested Corvus and the smaller corvus with awhite breast the little brown ren, and a large brown Sparrow, the bald Eagle, and the butifull Buzzard of the Columbia Still continue with us,

Capt. Clark, February 16, 1806--Shannon and Labiesh brought in to us today a Buzzard or Vulture of the Columbia which they had wounded and taken alive. I believe this to be the largest Bird of North America. it was not in good order and yet it wayed 25 lbs. had it have been so it might very well have weighed 10.lb more or 35 lbs. between the extremities of the wings it measured 9 feet 2 Inches; from the extremity of the beak to that of the toe 3 feet 9 inches and a half. from the hip to toe 2 feet, girth of the head 9 inches 3/4. Girth of the neck 7 1/2 inches; Girth of the body exclusive of the wings 2 feet 3 inches; girth of the leg 3 inches. the diameter of the eye 4 1/2/10 ths of an inch, the iris of a pale scarlet red, the puple of a deep sea green or black and occupies about one third of the diameter of the eye the head and part of the neck as low as the figures 1.2 is uncovered with feathers except that portion of it represented by dots forward and under the eye. the tail is composed of twelve feathers of equal length, each 14 inches. the legs are 4 3/4 inches in length and of a whitish colour uncovered with feathers, they are not entirely smooth but not imbricated; the toes are four in number three of which are foward and that in the center much the longest; the fourth is short and is inserted near the inner of the three other toes and reather projecting forward. the thye is covered with feathers as low as the knee. the top or upper part of the toes are imbricated with broad scales lying transversly, the nails are black and in proportion to the size of the bird comparitively with those of the Hawk or Eagle, short and bluntly pointed. the under side of the wing is covered with white down and feathers. a white stripe of about 2 inches in width, also marks the outer part of the wing, imbraceing the lower points of the feathers, which [c]over the joints of the wing through their whole length or width of that part of the wing. all the other feathers of whatever part are of a Glossy shineing black except the down, which is not glossy, but equally black. the skin of the beak and head to the joining of the neck is of a pale orrange Yellow, the other part uncovered with feathers is of a light flesh colour. the skin is thin and wrinkled except on the beak where it is smooth. This bird fly's very clumsily, nor do I know whether it ever seizes it's prey alive, but am induced to believe it does not. we have seen it feeding on the remains of the whale and other fish which have been thrown up by the waves on the sea coast. these I believe constitute their principal food, but I have no doubt but that they also feed on flesh. we did not meet with this bird un[t]ill we had decended the Columbia below the great falls, and have found them more abundant below tide water than above. this is the same species of Bird which R. Field killed on the 18th of Novr last and which is noticed on that day tho' not fully discribed then I thought this of the Buzzard speces. I now believe that this bird is reather of the Vulture genus than any other, tho' it wants some of their characteristics particularly the hair on the neck, and the feathers on the legs. this is a handsom bird at a little distance. it's neck is proportionably longer than those of the Hawks or Eagle. Shannon also brought a Grey Eagle which appeared to be of the same kind common to the U. States. it weight 15 Pds and measured 7 feet 7 inches between extremities of the wings. Shannon and Labiesh informed us that when he approached this Vulture after wounding it, that it made a loud noise very much like the barking of a Dog. the tongue is long firm and broad, filling the under Chap and partakeing of its transvirs curvature, or its sides forming a longitudinal Groove; obtuse at the point, the Margin armed with firm cartelagenous prickkles pointed and bending inwards.

Capt. Lewis, February 17, 1806--Shannon& Labuish brought me one of the large carrion Crow or Buzza[r]ds of the Columbia which they had wounded and taken alive. I b[e]lieve this to be the largest bird of North America. it was not in good order and yet it weighed 25 lbs. had it have been so it might very well have weighed 10 lbs mor[e] or 35 lbs. between the extremities of the wings it measured 9 feet 2 inches; from the extremity of the beak to that of the toe 3 F 9 1/2 In. from the hip to toe 2 feet, girth of the head 9 3/4 inches. girth of the neck 7 1/2 Inches; do (ed. "ditto", i.e. girth) of the body exclusive of the wings 2 feet 3 Inches; do of the leg 3 inches. the diameter of the eye 4 1/2/10 ths of an inch. the iris of a pale scarlet red, the puple of a deep sea green or black and occupies about one third of the diameter of the eye. the head and a part of the neck as low as the figures 1.2 is uncovered with feathers except that portion of it represented by dots (see likeness) (ed. Lewis also repeated Clark's drawing of the condor). the tail is composed of 12 feathers of equal length, each 14 inches. the legs are 4 3/4 inches in length and of a white colour uncovered with feathers, they are not entirely smooth but not imbricated; the toes are four in number three of which are forward and that in the center much the longes[t]; the fourth is short and is inserted near the inner of the three other toes and reather projecting forward. the thye is covered with feathers as low as the knee. the top or upper part of the toes are imbricated with broad scales lying transversly, the nails are blak and in proportion to the size of the bird comparitively with those of the halk or Eagle, short and bluntly pointed. the under side of the wing is covered with white down and feathers. a white stripe of about two inches in width, also marks the outer part of the wing, imbracing the lower points of the feathers, which cover the joints of the wing through their whole length or width of that part of the wing. all the other feathers of whatever part are glossey shining black except the down which is not glossey but equally black. the skin of the beak and head to the joining of the neck is of a pale orrange yellow the other part uncovered with feathers is of a light flesh colour. the skin is thin and wrinkled except on the beak where it is smooth. this bird flys very clumsily nor do I know whether it ever seizes it's prey alive, but am induced to believe it does not. we have seen it feeding on the remains of the whale & other fish which have been thrown up by the waves on the sea coast. these I believe constitute their principal food, but I have no doubt but that they also feed on flesh. we did not me[e]t with this bird un[t]ill we had decended the Columbia below the great falls, and have found them more abundant below tide-water than above. I believe that this bird is reather of the Vulture genus than any other, tho' it wants some of their characteristics particularly the hair on the neck and feathers on the legs. this is a handsome bird at a little distance. it's neck is proportionably longer than those of the hawks or Eagle. Shannon also brought me a grey Eagle which appeared to be of the same kind common to the U'States; it weight 15 lbs. and measured 7 Feet 7 Inches between extremities of the wings.

At 4 P.M. Sergt Gass and party arrived; they had killed eight Elk. Drewyer and Whitehouse also returned late in the evening, had killed one Elk. Labuishe informed me that whe[n] he approached this vulture, after wounding it, that it made a loud noise very much like the barking of a dog. the tongue is large firm and broad, filling the under chap and partaking of it's transverse curvature, or its sides colapsing upwards forming a longitudinal groove; obtuse at the point, the margin armed with firm cartelaginous prickkles pointed and bending inwards.

Capt. Lewis, March 28, 1806--the men who had been sent after the deer returned and brought in the remnent which the Vultures and Eagles had left us; these birds had devoured 4 deer in the course of a few hours. the party killed and brought in three other deer a goose some ducks and an Eagle. Drewyer also killed a tiger cat. Joseph Fields informed me that the Vultures had draged a large buck which he had killed about 30 yards, had skined it and broken the back bone. we came five miles only today.

Capt. Clark, April 6, 1806--Jos. Field killed a vulture of that speces already discribed.

 
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