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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Dendragapus obscurus

Common Name:
Blue Grouse


North of Helena, Montana   July 21, 1805

dark brown pheasant

Lewis had a time sorting the five species of grouse he encountered.  Making the task more difficult, three species have dramatic differences between males and females.  Blue grouse females tend to resemble spruce grouse females, and from a distance, they tend to resemble each other more than each resembles the males of their species.  Blue grouse can be recognized by their rather drab, dusky color.  They have long, broad tails, and strongly banded feet.  Lewis had one other way of distiguishing them from the spruce grouse.  He ate them and noted "agreeably flavored" white flesh.  By comparison, he thought the dark meat of the spruce grouse was no delicacy.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis, July 21, 1805--I also saw two fesants today of a dark brown colour much larger than the phesant of the ...  more>>

References Say, Thomas, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819 and 1820, By Order of The Hon. J. C. Calhoun, Sec'y of War: Under the Command of Major Stephen H. Long, from the Notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and Other Gentlemen of the Exploring Party (Edwin James, author), Philadelphia, two volumes, 1823

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Blue grouse specimen collected, June 24, 1895, Nyack, Montana.

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This blue grouse tail does not have a band toward the end, like the coastal members of this species.

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Blue grouse feet showing banding color pattern.

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Blue Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus)

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