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Birds and Mammals Observed by
Lewis & Clark in North Dakota

Editor's Note


In anticipation of the bicentennial anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, we hope to make available to the readers of North Dakota History articles that are long out of print or difficult to access but that continue to offer valuable scholarship relating to the Corps of Discovery in North Dakota. What follows is an excerpt from an article that first appeared in Volume I, Number 4 (July 1927) of the North Dakota Historical Quarterly, pages 14-36, edited by Orin G. Libby. It appears here in the same form as the original, with no changes to the citation style, capitalization, or punctuation. Copies of this article are available under separate cover through the State Historical Society.

The authors, Russell Reid and Clell Gannon, are familiar to those interested in North Dakota history. Russell Reid joined the staff of the State Historical Society in 1923, although he had worked at the state museum in the years following his graduation from high school. He was named the acting superintendent in 1930 and officially became the superintendent in 1931, a position he held until ill health led to his retirement in 1965. When Orin G. Libby retired in 1944, Reid also became the editor of the Society's quarterly history publication, which was renamed North Dakota History in 1945. During his twenty-year tenure as editor, Reid published several articles, most important of which was the five-part series, "Lewis and Clark in North Dakota" (January 1947-January 1948). Clell Gannon, a Bismarck artist, was a close friend of Reid's, accompanying him on a rowboat trip on the Little Missouri from Medora into the lower canyon and on several hiking excursions through the Missouri River bottoms. Gannon also created several of the paintings that formed backdrops for exhibits at the State Historical Society when it was housed in the Liberty Memorial Building on the capitol grounds (1924-1981).

This is the first half of Reid and Gannon's article (pages 14-26), in which the authors list and annotate all the birds and mammals observed by Lewis and Clark during their trek through what is now North Dakota. The second half of the original article, not reprinted, is titled "Comments on the Daily Journals." A more complete commentary on the Lewis and Clark journals can be found in Russell Reid's book, Lewis and Clark in North Dakota (1948, reprint 1988, State Historical Society of North Dakota), available in paperback for $15.95 through the State Historical Society of North Dakota or at local bookstores.

Thanks to Randy Kreil, chief of the Wildlife Division, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, for his review of this article. He confirmed that, though written more than seventy years ago, the text is still accurate and is a valuable analysis of the expedition leaders' observations of the fauna of this region. Readers may find, however, that some of the scientific nomenclature has changed since the article first appeared. Asterisks mark the two entries to which Kreil suggested additional information. In the entry on woodpeckers, Kreil suggests that explorers likely saw both species of woodpeckers. What they noted as a "Black and White-speckled Woodpecker" was likely the Hairy Woodpecker, and what they call a "Small Woodpecker or Sapsucker" was likely the Downy Woodpecker. He also notes that the bird listed as a "Whip-poor-will" by Lewis and Clark was probably a Common Night Hawk, since whip-poor-wills are an Eastern species not found in western North Dakota.

Most of the photographs of wildlife included with this article were borrowed from the remarkable photo archives of the magazine, North Dakota Outdoors, published by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Thanks to Harold Umber, editor of North Dakota Outdoors, for his assistance in selecting from the abundance of wonderful photographs he made available to us.


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