(book title, publisher, etc. here)
Under Construction ...
Birds of David Douglas ...
1826, while at Fort Vancouver ...
Sunday, January 1st.
Commencing a year in such a far removed
corner of the earth, where I am nearly destitute of civilised society, there
is some scope for reflection. In 1824, I was on the Atlantic on my way to
England ; 1825, between the island of Juan Fernandez and the Galapagos
in the Pacific ; I am now here, and God only knows where I may be the
next. In all probability, if a change does not take place, I will shortly
be consigned to the tomb. I can die satisfied with myself. I never have
given cause for remonstrance or pain to an individual on earth. ^ I am in
my twenty-seventh year.
January 2nd to March 1st.
As my Journal would be of little
consequence containing a statement of the weather and so on, I do not
transcribe it. The following birds came under my notice during the
Silver-headed Eagle is abundant all over the country where there
are rivers containing fish. They perch on dead trees and stumps over-
hanging the water, and are invariably to be found near falls or cascades.
It is a very wary bird and difficult to obtain ; although powerful, it is
overcome by several other species. Its voice is a weak whistle ; called by
the natives ' chuck, chuck,' which name they give from its own call. They
build their nests on large trees on the banks of rivers, and seem to prefer a
point, for on every conspicuous eminence or neck of land are nests. I
have not seen the egg ; has two, three, or four young at a time. They keep
the nest on the branches of the trees for several weeks, and seldom leave
the place where they were hatched any considerable distance. The colour
of the first plumage is a brownish -black. The first spring they assume a
mottled-grey, the head and tail of a lighter cast ; the second, the head
and tail become perfectly white, and the body black. When returning
from the Grand Rapids last September, I observed one take a small
sturgeon out of the Water and come over my head. I lifted my gun and
brought him down. The claws were so firmly clenched through the carti-
laginous substance of the back, that he did not let go until I introduced a
needle in the vertebrae of the neck. The sturgeon measured 15 inches long,
weighing about 4 Ib.
Common Magpie ; is a rare bird in the low country.
The first I observed Was in November. I am informed they are very
abundant in the upper country at all seasons, whither they probably
migrate in the summer. They appear not to differ specifically from the
European species except in size,and the tail feathers of the male a brighter
azure-purple. The American variety has the same trait in his character as
the European of annoying horses that have any sores about them. I killed
a pair, male and female, in January.
Wood Partridge ; is not a rare bird
although they are by no means seen in such numbers as many of the
tribes on the other side of the continent. They frequent dry gravelly
soils on the outskirts of woods, among hazel bushes and other brushwood ;
are very shy. The breaking of a small twig is sufficient to raise them,
and as they very generally are in the low thicket, it is only by a chance
shot on wing they can be secured. I preserved two pair of this fine species,
but a villainous rat mutilated one of the males so much that I had to
throw it away, and I had no opportunity to replace it, and there is in the
collection one male and two females.
On the Multnomah there is one of very
diminutive size not so large as the English thrush, with a long azure crest ;
the whole bird is pease-grey except the neck and head which are azure -
purple. I have not seen it myself. I have furnished one of the hunters
with a small quantity of fine shot to procure it for me.
In the upper
country there are two or three species of grouse, one, a very large bright
grey bird as large as the smaller size of turkeys, it is very plentiful and
easily procured ;
another of the same colour, about the size of the English
black-cock, inhabits the same place, and is abundant.
In addition to
these there is a very beautiful species of pheasant, a little on this side of
the Rocky Mountains, about the size of the common hen, of a blackish
colour. It cackles exactly like a hen, it was never seen to fly, but runs
with great speed.
The large grouse I have never seen alive, only tail
feathers, and parts of the skin forming war capes in the possession of
Indians from the interior.
Small Blue Jay ; a very distinct bird from
C[uculus\ cristatus of Wilson. Indeed I do not remember any species that
will agree with it in his work. If I recollect rightly, the common blue
jay is rather a shy bird, and in the autumn is seen in great flocks, seldom
near houses. This one is also very plentiful, but seldom more than thirty
or forty together ; it is very tame and visits dunghills of Indian villages,
the same as the English robin. I preserved three, sex unknown. It is of
a darker blue than the other, with a black crest.
Large Brown Eagle ; ia
a less plentiful bird than most species of the tribe, and not so shy as many.
Is not so ferocious as the Silver-headed, of which he stands in great awe.
I was able to procure only one of this species in February ; the sex is
unknown to me. Appears not to live on fish, as wild-fowl was in the
Small Eagle ; this appears to be a rare bird ; only one pair
have I seen, one of which I killed. It flies with amazing speed and pursues
all other species although far inferior in strength and much smaller ; the
legs and feet of a bright light blue colour. What food it lives on I cannot
say, as the stomach was empty.
Large Horned Owl ; seems not to be
very abundant ; I have not seen more than twelve or fourteen. One I
killed by the light of the moon, after having watched for six successive
evenings. It was not the species I was in quest of ;
I am given to understand there is a species here much larger than the Snowy Owl, of a
yellowish-brown, but although I have been constantly in search of him,
I am as yet unsuccessful.
Two species of Crow, one large and one small ;
the small one is less abundant and more shy, generally seen on the sides
of rivers ; both frequent old encampments and live on carrion ; one of
each is in the collection ; killed in February.
Of the Hawk tribe I have
seen four species ; only two males of different species I have been able
to kill, which are both preserved.
I have seen one nearly a pure white
about the size of a Sparrowhawk, a very active bird and continually
on the chase after all the other species which all shun its society. I am
sorry that this with the other two species I am unable to kill.
fowl there appears to be little difference from those found in most parts
of uninhabited America.
The common Canadian Wild Goose, the Grey
or Calling Goose,
and the Small White Goose, are very plentiful in all
lakes, low plains, and on the sandbanks of the Columbia. They migrate
northward in April and return in October. A pair of each are in the
collection, the male of the grey is a fine mottled bird.
Of Swans there
appear to be three species or varieties : one large, the Common Swan ;
one small, of the same colour (probably age may account for that) ; a
third, equal in size to the largest, bluish-grey on the back, neck, and
head, white on the belly. All three are seen together in flocks frequenting
the same spots as the wild geese and migrate at the same time. The
third species, of which there is a female in the collection, differs I think
specifically from the others and is not so plentiful. In Ducks there are
ten or twelve species; I have been able to kill only three.
Columbia there is a species of Buzzard, the largest of all birds here, the
Swan excepted. I killed only one of this very interesting bird, with
buckshot, one of which passed through the head, which rendered it unfit
for preserving ; I regret it exceedingly, for I am confident it is not yet
described. I have fired at them with every size of small shots at respect-
able distances without effect ; seldom more than one or two are together.
When they find a dead carcase or any putrid animal matter, so gluttonous
are they that they will eat until they can hardly walk and have been
killed with a stick. They are of the same colour as the common small
buzzard found in Canada, one of which was sent home last October.
Beak and legs bright yellow. The feathers of the wing are highly prized
by the Canadian voyageurs for making tobacco pipe-stems. I am shortly
to try to take them in a baited steel-trap.
I learn from the hunters
that the Calumet Eagle is found two degrees south of the Columbia in
the winter season ; two were killed by one of them.