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

Black-billed Magpie

Capt. Lewis, September 16, 1804--…come too at…a small creek which we named Corvus, in consequence of having killed a beautiful bird of that genus near it.

Capt. Clark, September 17, 1804--Capt. Lewis ...killed…a remarkable Bird (Mapgy) of the Corvus Species long tail the upper part of the feathers & also the wings is of a purplish variated Greeen, the back & a part of the wing feathers are white edged with black, white belly, while from the root of the wings to Center of the back is White, the head nake breast & other parts are black the Beeke like a Crow. abt the Size of a large Pigion. a butifull thing.

Capt. Lewis, September 17, 1804--one of the hunters killed a bird of the Corvus genus and order of the pica & about the size of a jack-daw. with a remarkable long tale. beautifully variegated. it[s] note is not disagreeable though loud—it is twait-twait-twait, twait; twait, twait twait twait.

from tip to tip of wing110
Do (ed. – "ditto") beak to extremity of tale18 1/2
of which the tale occupies 11
from extremity of middle toe to hip55 1/2

(ed. – clearly, the measurement listed as 5 feet in the last line is incorrect; otherwise, this bird would be at least as large as an ostrich!)

it’s head, beak, and neck are large for a bird of it’s size; the beak is black and of a convex and cultrated figure, the chops nearly equal, and it’s base large and beset with hairs. the eyes are black encircled with a narrow ring of yellowish black it’s head, neck, brest & back within one inch of the tale are of a fine glossey black, as are also the short f[e]athers of the under part of the wing, the thies and those about the root of the tale. the belly is of a beautifull white which passes above and arround the but of the wing, where the feathers being long reach to a small white spot on the rump one inch in width. the wings have nineteen feathers, of which the ten first have the longer side of their plumage white in the midd[l]e of the feather and occupying in equal lengths of the same from one to three inches, and forming when the wing is sp[r]ead a kind of triangle, the upper and lower part of these party coloured feathers on the under side of the wing being of dark colour but not jut or shining black. the under side of the remaining feathers of the wing are darker. the upper side of the wing, as well as the short side of the plumage of the party-coloured feathers is of a dark blackis[h] or bluish green sonetimes presenting as a light orange yellow or bluish tint as it happens to be presented to different exposures of lig[h]t. the plumage of the tale consists of 12 feathers of equal lengths by pair[s], those in the center are the longest, and the others on each side deminishing about an inch each pair. the underside of the feathers is a pale black, the upper side is a dark blueish green and which like the outer part of the wings is changable as it reflects different portions of the light. towards the extremity of these feathers they become of an orrange green, then shaded pass to a redish indigo blue, and again at the extremity assume the predominant colour of changable green. the tints of these feathers are very similar and equally beatiful and rich as the tints of blue and green of the peacock. it is a most beatifull bird. the legs and toes are black and imbricated. it has four long toes, three in front and one in rear, each terminated with a black sharp tallon of from 3/8ths to 1/2 an inch in length. these birds are seldom found in parties of more than three or four and most usually at this season single as the halk and other birds of prey usually are. it’s usual food is flesh. this bird dose not spread it’s tail when it flys and the motion of it’s wings when flying is much like that of a Jay-bird.

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