Birds of Lewis and Clark
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"Birds of Lewis and Clark"
Birds of Lewis and Clark ... Loons and Grebes

New birds and already familiar birds seen by Lewis and Clark, with comments and notes from Patterson, Cutright, Holmgren, Johnsgard, Moulton, Sibley, Avibase, Cornell, Audubon, and Coues ... credits are listed at the end of the page ... camera icon indicates an image is online ... all images were taken by this webpage author, although not all images are from the areas that Lewis and Clark visited. NOTE: this page has not been proof-read, and, while care is taken, any errors (especially in dates) occurring (except as noted) are my own sloppy typing.

[New Birds] ... [Other Birds] ... [Hawks, Harrier, Falcons, and Kite] ... [Loons and Grebes]

Loons and Grebes
  1. picture depicted Arctic Loon
  2. picture depicted Common Loon
  3. picture depicted Horned Grebe
  4. picture depicted Pacific Loon
  5. picture depicted Pied-billed Grebe
  6. picture depicted Red-necked Grebe
  7. picture depicted Red-throated Loon
  8. picture depicted Western Grebe



  • Pied-billed Grebe
    L&C "small species diver"

    Image, 2008, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
    Click image to enlarge
    Pied-billed Grebe, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken May 18, 2008.

    Lewis, March 10, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop:
    "... the divers are the same with those of the Atlantic States.    the smaller species [Pied-billed Grebe] has some white feathers about the rump with no perceptable tail and is very active and quck in it's motion; the body is of a redish brown.   the beak sharp and somewhat curved like that of the pheasant.    the toes are not connected but webed like those discribed of the black duck.    the larger speceis [Red-necked Grebe] are about the size of the teal and can flye a short distance which the small one scarcely ever attapts.    they have a short tail.    their colour is also an uniform brickredish brown, the beak is streight and pointed. the feet are of the same form of the other speceis and the legs are remarkably thin and flat one edge being in front.    the food of both speceis is fish, and the flesh unfit for uce. ..."


    "The Aquatic birds of this country, or such as obtain their subsistence from the water, are the large blue and brown heron [Great Blue Heron], fishing hawk [Osprey], blue crested fisher [Belted Kingfisher], gulls of several species of the Coast [see Bonaparte's Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull], the large grey gull of the Columbia [Western Gull], Comorant [Double-crested Cormorant], loons of two species [Pacific Loon and Western Grebe], white, and the brown brant [Snow Goose and Brant], small and large geese [Cackling Geese and Canada Goose], small and large swan [Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan], the Duckinmallard [Mallard], canvis back duck [Canvasback], red headed fishing duck [Red-breasted Merganser or Common Merganser], black and white duck [Bufflehead], little brown duck [unknown, possibly one of the Teals], black duck [American Coot], two species of divers [Pied-billed Grebe and Red-necked Grebe], blue winged teal [Blue-winged Teal], and some other speceis of ducks."
    -- Lewis, March 6, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop



    Commentary:

    • Patterson (what L&C described): small species diver
    • Patterson (conjectures, mostly from Coues, in Burroughs, 1961): Pied-billed Grebe
    • Patterson (current AOU equivalent): Pied-billed Grebe
    • Patterson (comments): Lewis and Clark lumped loons and grebes together and most of the descriptions are fairly general. The speckled loon Coues identifies as Pacific Loon could just as easily be a Common Loon or a Red-throated Loon, in fact, Red-throated Loon is argueably more speckled in winter plumage than Pacific (which I would described as banded). It seems likely that all three species were seen and that any loons seen east of Tongue Point (east of Astoria) were more likely Red-throated or Common. The description of Western Grebe is sufficient to assume that it is what they saw (and 100's winter on the Columbia River estuary), as is the description for Red-necked Grebe, but I can't help wondering how they missed Horned Grebe.

    • Holmgren:    DIVERS, an old term for loons or grebes.
      • "large" (3-10-06) red-necked grebe, Podiceps grisegena Boddaert 1783, or horned grebe, Podiceps auritus, L. 1758.
      • "small" (3-10-06), pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps, L. 1758.

    • Moulton (March 10, 1806):    The pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps [AOU, 6]. Burroughs, 178; Holmgren, 29.


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  • Pacific Loon ... or Arctic Loon ... or Common Loon ... or Red-throated Loon
    L&C "speckled loon"
    Pacific Loon is NEW BIRD, Common Loon is not, Arctic Loon was once lumped with Pacific Loon

    Image, 2011, Broughton Beach, Columbia River, Oregon, click to enlarge
    Click image to enlarge
    Pacific Loon, Broughton Beach, Columbia River, Oregon. Image taken November 2, 2011.
    Image, 2008, Blind Slough, Oregon, click to enlarge Image, 2008, Blind Slough, Oregon, click to enlarge
    Click image to enlarge
    Arctic Loon (left) and Red-throated Loon (right). Images taken January 13, 2008, Blind Slough, Oregon.
    Image, 2010, Hagg Lake, Oregon, click to enlarge
    Click image to enlarge
    Common Loon, Hagg Lake, Oregon. Rainy day. Image taken October 26, 2010.

    Lewis, March 7, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop:
    "... There are two speceis of loons.    1st the Speckled loon found on every part of the rivers of this country.    they are the same size colours and form with those of the Atlantic coast.    the second speceis [Western Grebe] we first met with at the great falls of the Columbia [Celilo Falls] and from thence down.    this bird is not more than half the size of the speckled loon, it's neck is long, slender and white in front.    the Colour of the body and back of the neck and head are of a dun or ash colour, the breast and belley are white.    the beak is like that of the speckled loon and like them it cannot fly but flutters along on the top of the warter or dives for security when pursued. ..."


    "The Aquatic birds of this country, or such as obtain their subsistence from the water, are the large blue and brown heron [Great Blue Heron], fishing hawk [Osprey], blue crested fisher [Belted Kingfisher], gulls of several species of the Coast [see Bonaparte's Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull], the large grey gull of the Columbia [Western Gull], Comorant [Double-crested Cormorant], loons of two species [Pacific Loon and Western Grebe], white, and the brown brant [Snow Goose and Brant], small and large geese [Cackling Geese and Canada Goose], small and large swan [Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan], the Duckinmallard [Mallard], canvis back duck [Canvasback], red headed fishing duck [Red-breasted Merganser or Common Merganser], black and white duck [Bufflehead], little brown duck [unknown, possibly one of the Teals], black duck [American Coot], two species of divers [Pied-billed Grebe and Red-necked Grebe], blue winged teal [Blue-winged Teal], and some other speceis of ducks."
    -- Lewis, March 6, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop



    Commentary:

    • Patterson (what L&C described): speckled loon
    • Patterson (conjectures, mostly from Coues, in Burroughs, 1961): Pacific Loon
    • Patterson (current AOU equivalent): Pacific Loon
    • Patterson (comments): All 3 common loons, Pacific Loon is the least common (away from the ocean and lower estuary) of the 3 species that regularly occur on the Columbia River.
    • Patterson (comments): Lewis and Clark lumped loons and grebes together and most of the descriptions are fairly general. The speckled loon Coues identifies as Pacific Loon could just as easily be a Common Loon or a Red-throated Loon, in fact, Red-throated Loon is argueably more speckled in winter plumage than Pacific (which I would described as banded). It seems likely that all three species were seen and that any loons seen east of Tongue Point (east of Astoria) were more likely Red-throated or Common. The description of Western Grebe is sufficient to assume that it is what they saw (and 100's winter on the Columbia River estuary), as is the description for Red-necked Grebe, but I can't help wondering how they missed Horned Grebe.

    • Coues (vol.III, 1893):    "the speckled loon" ... This is a species of Colymbus or Urinator, but may be any one of three or four. The bird actually meant, however, is probably the Pacific diver, C., or U. pacificus, which is the commonest loon along the coast of Oregon and California; it is a very near relative of the black-throated diver, C. or U. arcticus. The common loon of the United States is C. torquatus or U. imber; the red-throated is C. septentrionalis or U. Lumme.

    • Cutright: Pacific Loon [AOU 10], described by Lewis March 7, 1806, at Fort Clatsop. Gavia arctica pacifica (Lawrence, 1858).

    • Holmgren:    LOONS
      • "larger (2-7-06) and speckled", seen on all river. Common Loon Gavia immer, Brunnich 1764.
      • "smaller", seen only on the Columbia River and Pacific Coast, may be Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata Pontopidan 1763, or Arctic Loon Gavia arctica, L. 1758. Both are smaller than common loon by 6-7 inches. Description fits winter plumage of both, but especially arctic loon.
      • (NOTE: Holmgren's 2-7-06 in error, should be 3-7-06. Also the "smaller loon" is now determined to be the Western Grebe).

    • Moulton (March 7, 1806, first species):    Perhaps the arctic loon, Gavia arctica [AOU, 10], specifically the western subspecies, Pacific loon, G. a. pacifica. Or it may be the same as "those of the Atlantic coast," that is, the common loon, G. immer [AOU, 7]. Burroughs, 177; Coues (HLC), 3:811 n. 85; Holmgren, 32.

    • Moulton (March 7, 1806, second species):    The western grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis [AOU, 1]. Burroughs, 17879; Coues (HLC), 3:882 n. 86. Holmgren, 32, considers it to be either the arctic loon or the red-throated loon, Gavia stellata [AOU, 11]. With both this and the loon, Lewis was mistaken about their ability to fly.


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  • Red-necked Grebe ... or Horned Grebe
    L&C "large speceis diver"
    Red-necked Grebe is NEW BIRD, Horned Grebe is not

    Image, 2012, Chinook Landing, Troutdale, Oregon, click to enlarge Image, 2009, Eagle Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
    Click image to enlarge
    Red-necked Grebe (left) and Horned Grebe (right). Left image taken April 9, 2012, Chinook Landing at Troutdale, Oregon. Right image taken April 18, 2009, mouth of Eagle Creek, Oregon.

    Lewis, March 10, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop:
    "... the divers are the same with those of the Atlantic States.    the smaller species [Pied-billed Grebe] has some white feathers about the rump with no perceptable tail and is very active and quck in it's motion; the body is of a redish brown.   the beak sharp and somewhat curved like that of the pheasant.    the toes are not connected but webed like those discribed of the black duck [American Coot].    the larger speceis [Red-necked Grebe] are about the size of the teal and can flye a short distance which the small one scarcely ever attapts.    they have a short tail.    their colour is also an uniform brickredish brown, the beak is streight and pointed. the feet are of the same form of the other speceis and the legs are remarkably thin and flat one edge being in front.    the food of both speceis is fish, and the flesh unfit for uce. ..."


    "The Aquatic birds of this country, or such as obtain their subsistence from the water, are the large blue and brown heron [Great Blue Heron], fishing hawk [Osprey], blue crested fisher [Belted Kingfisher], gulls of several species of the Coast [see Bonaparte's Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull], the large grey gull of the Columbia [Western Gull], Comorant [Double-crested Cormorant], loons of two species [Pacific Loon and Western Grebe], white, and the brown brant [Snow Goose and Brant], small and large geese [Cackling Geese and Canada Goose], small and large swan [Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan], the Duckinmallard [Mallard], canvis back duck [Canvasback], red headed fishing duck [Red-breasted Merganser or Common Merganser], black and white duck [Bufflehead], little brown duck [unknown, possibly one of the Teals], black duck [American Coot], two species of divers [Pied-billed Grebe and Red-necked Grebe], blue winged teal [Blue-winged Teal], and some other speceis of ducks."
    -- Lewis, March 6, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop



    Commentary:

    • Patterson (what L&C described): divers with brick red necks
    • Patterson (conjectures, mostly from Coues, in Burroughs, 1961): Holboell's Grebe
    • Patterson (current AOU equivalent): Red-necked Grebe
    • Patterson (comments): Lewis and Clark lumped loons and grebes together and most of the descriptions are fairly general. The speckled loon Coues identifies as Pacific Loon could just as easily be a Common Loon or a Red-throated Loon, in fact, Red-throated Loon is argueably more speckled in winter plumage than Pacific (which I would described as banded). It seems likely that all three species were seen and that any loons seen east of Tongue Point (east of Astoria) were more likely Red-throated or Common. The description of Western Grebe is sufficient to assume that it is what they saw (and 100s winter on the Columbia River estuary), as is the description for Red-necked Grebe, but I can't help wondering how they missed Horned Grebe.

    • Cutright: Red-necked Grebe [AOU 2], described by Lewis, March 10, 1806, at Fort Clatsop. Podiceps grisegena holbollii (Reinhardt, 1853).

    • Holmgren:    DIVERS, an old term for loons or grebes.
      • "large" (3-10-06) red-necked grebe, Podiceps grisegena Boddaert 1783, or horned grebe, Podiceps auritus, L. 1758.
      • "small" (3-10-06), pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps, L. 1758.

    • Moulton (March 10, 1806): The red-necked grebe, Podiceps grisegena [AOU, 2], or the horned grebe, P. auritus [AOU, 3]. Burroughs, 17778; Holmgren, 29.


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  • Western Grebe
    L&C "long necked loon"
    NEW BIRD

    Image, 2008, Blind Slough, Oregon, click to enlarge Image, 2009, Vancouver Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
    Click image to enlarge
    Western Grebe, Blind Slough, Oregon (left) and Vancouver Lake, Washington (right). Left image taken January 13, 2008. Right image taken January 4, 2009.

    Lewis, March 7, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop:
    "... There are two speceis of loons.    1st the Speckled loon found on every part of the rivers of this country.    they are the same size colours and form with those of the Atlantic coast.    the second speceis we first met with at the great falls of the Columbia [Celilo Falls] and from thence down.    this bird is not more than half the size of the speckled loon, it's neck is long, slender and white in front.    the Colour of the body and back of the neck and head are of a dun or ash colour, the breast and belley are white.    the beak is like that of the speckled loon and like them it cannot fly but flutters along on the top of the warter or dives for security when pursued. ..."


    "The Aquatic birds of this country, or such as obtain their subsistence from the water, are the large blue and brown heron [Great Blue Heron], fishing hawk [Osprey], blue crested fisher [Belted Kingfisher], gulls of several species of the Coast [see Bonaparte's Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull], the large grey gull of the Columbia [Western Gull], Comorant [Double-crested Cormorant], loons of two species [Pacific Loon and Western Grebe], white, and the brown brant [Snow Goose and Brant], small and large geese [Cackling Geese and Canada Goose], small and large swan [Tundra Swan and Trumpeter Swan], the Duckinmallard [Mallard], canvis back duck [Canvasback], red headed fishing duck [Red-breasted Merganser or Common Merganser], black and white duck [Bufflehead], little brown duck [unknown, possibly one of the Teals], black duck [American Coot], two species of divers [Pied-billed Grebe and Red-necked Grebe], blue winged teal [Blue-winged Teal], and some other speceis of ducks."
    -- Lewis, March 6, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop



    Commentary:

    • Patterson (what L&C described): long necked loon
    • Patterson (conjectures, mostly from Coues, in Burroughs, 1961): Western Grebe
    • Patterson (current AOU equivalent): Western Grebe
    • Patterson (comments):    Lewis and Clark lumped loons and grebes together and most of the descriptions are fairly general. The speckled loon Coues identifies as Pacific Loon could just as easily be a Common Loon or a Red-throated Loon, in fact, Red-throated Loon is argueably more speckled in winter plumage than Pacific (which I would described as banded). It seems likely that all three species were seen and that any loons seen east of Tongue Point (east of Astoria) were more likely Red-throated or Common. The description of Western Grebe is sufficient to assume that it is what they saw (and 100's winter on the Columbia River estuary), as is the description for Red-necked Grebe, but I can't help wondering how they missed Horned Grebe.

    • Coues (vol.III, 1893):    "the second species" ... This is the original and an easily recognizable description of this bird, which was not formally characterized till many years afterward, when, in 1858 (Birds N. Am. p.894) Mr. G.N. Lawrence, of New York, named it Podiceps occidentalis. I instituted the genus AEchmophorus for its reception in 1862 (Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila. p.229). Lewis and Clark's statement that niether loons nor grebes can fly is erroneous.

    • Cutright: Western Grebe [AOU 1], described by Lewis March 7, 1806, at Fort Clatsop. Aechmophorus occidentalis (Lawrence, 1858).

    • Holmgren:    LOONS
      • "larger (2-7-06) and speckled", seen on all river. Common Loon Gavia immer, Brunnich 1764.
      • "Smaller", seen only on the Columbia River and Pacific Coast, may be Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata Pontopidan 1763, or Arctic Loon Gavia arctica, L. 1758. Both are smaller than common loon by 6-7 inches. Description fits winter plumage of both, but especially arctic loon.
      • (NOTE: Holmgren's 2-7-06 in error, should be 3-7-06. Also the "smaller loon" is now determined to be the Western Grebe).

    • Holmgren:    DUCKS
      • "swan-duck or swan-goose" (11-5-05, 3-7-06), Folk names for western grebe. Aechmophorus occidentalis, Lawrence 1858.
      • NOTE: have not tracked down any reason for the above entry, no reference to these terms on either date listed. Searching the Moulton publications, "Swan Goose" is a bird used in comparison to White Pelican (August 8, 1804) or the Snow Goose (March 8, 1806). Besides, there would be no "folk names" for the Western Grebe, seeing as Lewis and Clark were the discoverers of the species.

    • Moulton (March 7, 1806):    The western grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis [AOU, 1]. Burroughs, 17879; Coues (HLC), 3:882 n. 86. Holmgren, 32, considers it to be either the arctic loon or the red-throated loon, Gavia stellata [AOU, 11]. With both this and the loon, Lewis was mistaken about their ability to fly.


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  • Sources:
    • Audubon, J.J., 1841-1844, The Birds of America, in 7 volumes;
    • AVIBASE, The World Bird Database website (2010);
    • Cornell University's "Birds of North America" website, 2010;
    • Cornell University's "All About Birds" website, 2010;
    • Cornell University's "Birds of North America Online" website, 2012;
    • Coues, E., 1893, History of the Expedition under the Command of Lewis and Clark, Francis P. Harper publisher, in 4 volumes;
    • Cutright, P.R., 1969, Lewis & Clark, Pioneering Naturalists, University of Illinois Press;
    • Holmgren, V.C., 2003, Birds of the Lewis and Clark Journals, IN: Saindon, R.A. (editor), Explorations into the World of Lewis and Clark, vol.2: Lewis and Clark Trial Heritage Foundation, Inc., Great Falls, Montana (NOTE: Virginia Holmgren states: "The journals identify 134 species of birds with reasonable certainty -- name for familiar species, and for other with some guess at family likeness and whatever distinguishing detail could be noted. ..." Not all Holmgren entries are listed here.);
    • Johnsgard, P.A., 2003, Lewis and Clark on the Great Plains, University of Nebraska Press;
    • Moulton, G.
    • Patterson, Mike, 2005, "Birds of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" website, 2010;
    • Sibley, D.A., 2000, National Audubon Society's The Sibley Guide to Birds;

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