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The Lewis and Clark Adventure

South Dakota:  Magpies

Captain Lewis wrote:

The eagles, magpies, and geese have their nests in trees next to each other.  The magpie particularly appears fond of building near the eagle.

—April 27, 1805.

This illustration shows a magpie perched on a branch.

On September 16, 1804, Captain Lewis noted in his journal that they named a small creek in Chamberlain, South Dakota, "Corvus," which is Latin for "crow."  "Corvidae" is the family name that science gives to birds like the crow and the magpie.

Four live magpies were shipped from Fort Mandan, South Dakota, to Washington, DC.  Only one of them was still alive when the shipment arrived four months later.  The magpie and a prairie dog that also lived through the trip were put on display in Peale's Museum in Philadelphia, one of our first natural history museums.

Magpies, like orcas and pandas, are mostly black and white, but the feathers of magpies also have deep greens and other colors that change under different light.  The bird's tail is about as long as its head and body together, and Lewis and Clark found it quite beautiful.

For learning about the magpie, a Peace Medal Nickel has been added to your collection.  To learn about this coin, click here.

This image shows the Lewis and Clark trail extended to North Dakota.

Your next stop will be North Dakota.  That's where you'll help the explorers record the plant and animal life you see.

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