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

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark and Lewis both mentioned this bird in their journals. Lewis provided an extended description of the bird that was later to be known as Clark’s nutcracker.

Capt. Clark, August 22, 1805--I saw to day [a] Bird of the woodpecker kind which fed on Pine burs its Bill and tale white the wings black every other part of a light brown, and about the Size of a robin.

Capt. Lewis, May 28, 1806--since my arrival here I have killed several birds of the corvus genus of a kind found only in the rocky mountains and their neighbourhood. I first met with this bird above the three forks of the Missouri and saw them on the hights of the rocky Mountains but never before had an opportunity of examining them closely. the small corvus discribed at Fort Clatsop is a different speceis, tho’ untill now I had taken it to be the same, this is much larger and has a loud squawling not something like the mewing of a cat. the beak of this bird is 1-1/2 inches long, is proportionably large, black and of the form which characterizes this genus. the upper exceeds the under chap a little. the head and neck are also proportionably large. the eye full and reather prominent, the iris dark brown and puple black. it is about the size and somewhat the form of the Jaybird tho reather rounder or more full in the body. the tail is four and a half inches in length, composed of 12 feathers nearly of the same length. the head neck and body of this bird are of a dove colour. the wings are black except the extremities of six large f[e]athers occupying the middle joint of the wing which are white. the under disk of the wing is not the shining or gr[l]ossy black which marks its upper surface. the two feathers for half their width the balance are of pure white. the feet and legs are black and imbricated with wide scales. the nails are black and remarkably long and sharp, also much curved. it has four toes on each foot of which one is in the rear and three in front. the toes are long particularly that in the rear. This bird feeds on the seed of the pine and also on insects. it resides in the rocky mountains at all seasons of the year, and in many parts is the only bird to be found.

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