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

Gray Jay

The "smaller corvus with the white brest" in the second and third entries below is thought to be the gray jay. We also include here Capt. Lewis’ notes from Codex Q – this extensive description appears to be consistent with that of the gray jay.

Capt. Lewis, December 18, 1805--This day one of the men shot a bird of the Corvus genus, which was feeding on some fragments of meat near the camp. this bird is about the size of a king bird or bee martin, and not unlike that bird in form. the beak is about 3/4 of an inch long, wide at the base, of a convex, and culturated figure. beset with some small black hairs near it’s base. the chaps are of nearly equal lengths tho’ the upper exceeds the under one a little, and has a small nich in the upper chap near the extremity perceptable only by close examineation. the colour of the beak is black. the eye is large and prominent, the puple black, and iris of a dark yellowish brown. the legs and feet are black and imbricated. has four toes on each foot armed with long sharp tallons, the hinder toe is nearly as long as the middle toe in front, and longer than the two remaining toes. the tale is composed of twelve feathers the longest of which are five inches, being six in number placed in the center. the remaining six are placed 3 on either side and graduly deminish to four inches which is the shortest and outer feathers. the tail is half the length of the bird, the wh[o]le length from the extremity of the beak to the extremity of the tale being 10 Inches. the head from it’s joining the neck forward as far as the eyes nearly to the base of the beak and on each side as low as the center of the eye is black. around the base of the beak the throat jaws, neck, brest and belley are of a pale bluish white. the wings back and tale are of a bluish black with a small shade of brown. this bird is common to this piny country are also found in the rockey mountains on the waters of the columbia river or woody side of those mountains, appear to frequent the highest summits of those mountains as far as they are covered with timber. their note is que, quit-it, quit-it, que-hoo; and t> h, t> h, &[c]. there is another bird of a reather larger size which I saw on the woddy parts of the rockey mountains on the waters of the Missouri, this bird I could never kill tho’ I made saveral attempts, the predominate colour is a dark blue the tale is long and they are not crested, I believe them to be of the corvus genus also. their note is ch> r, ch> r, char-ar, char; the large blue crested corvus bird of the Columbia river is also

Capt. Lewis, January 3 1806--a small Crow, the blue crested Corvus and the smaller corvus with the white brest, the little brown ren, a large brown sparrow, the bald Eagle and the beatifull Buzzard of the columbia still continue with us.

Capt. Lewis, March 4, 1806--The blue crested Corvus and the small white breasted do (ed. – "ditto", i.e. Corvus) have been previously discribed and are the natives of a piney country invariably, being found as well on the rocky mountains as on this coast.

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