Discusses various pigeons and would welcome receiving any odd breed. Some pigeons have died from overeating bag salt.
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Sir
Many thanks for your note & kind offers of assistance.— I sh
If ever you sh
By the way I must mention that M
What an excellent table you have sent me, as a specimen; I cannot doubt you will make a first-rate work on your subject.—
I saw quite lately (& have just now been relooking over my papers, but cannot refind the note) that Pallas in his Spicilegia Zoologica (I think vol. 2.) has described the protuberance on the skull of the Polish Fowl.— This, perhaps, would be worth your looking to.—
I have had a most unfortunate, & curious in medical point of view, accident this morning; viz in 3 of my best, old Pigeons dying & 2 or 3 others ill, from overeating Bay Salt: & what makes it odder, they have been accustomed to it; but have not had any for 2 or 3 weeks: I noticed that they ate very much, but I never dreamed of its making them ill; but in 3 or 4 hours I had half-a-dozen very ill & 3 are now dead. I now remember before that it seemed to make them sick on a former occasion; this seems to me very surprising; but I cannot doubt in the least, that it was the salt & nothing but the salt.— The deaths happened in two houses.—
Pray believe me, Yours very sincerely | Ch. Darwin
- f1 1844.f1The year is established by the incident with the pigeons overeating salt, which is reported in the letter and was subsequently published by Tegetmeier (see n. 9, below).
- f2 1844.f2See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 15 March .
- f3 1844.f3Notes recording the results of CD's crosses between various races of pigeons are preserved in DAR 205.7: 166–89 and in CD's Catalogue of Down specimens (Down House MS).
- f4 1844.f4Scanderoons are described in Variation 1: 142–4. There is an entry in CD's Account book (Down House MS) for 10 March 1856 that reads: ‘Townsend: Skeletons’. There are several subsequent entries to the same effect. CD had previously prepared his own skeletons (see Correspondence vol. 5, letter to T. C. Eyton, 26 November ).
- f5 1844.f5Neumeister 1837. CD's annotated copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
- f6 1844.f6Bernard P. Brent was one of CD's chief sources of information on poultry.
- f7 1844.f7CD possibly refers to some preliminary work for Tegetmeier's Poultry book (Tegetmeier ed. 1856–7), the first number of which was issued in May, or to Tegetmeier 1856 (see n. 8, below).
- f8 1844.f8Pallas 1767–80, pt 4, pp. 18–23 and Plate III. One of Tegetmeier's specialities was the breeding of Polish fowl, which are characterised by a skeletal protuberance on the crown of the head exaggerated by colourful crest feathers. Tegetmeier exhibited live specimens and skeletons of this breed at a meeting of the Zoological Society of London on 25 November 1856. In the written report (Tegetmeier 1856) he mentioned Pyotr Simon Pallas's earlier description but corrected Pallas's opinion that the breed was a product of a cross between a domestic fowl and the guinea-fowl.
- f9 1844.f9Tegetmeier published an account of the death of CD's pigeons. He stated it was ‘communicated to me by one of the most distinguished naturalists of the day, whom I am most proud to number on my list of friends’ (Cottage Gardener 16 (1856): 73–4). Tegetmeier concluded that ‘it is necessary to limit the quantity of salt given to birds, after they have been deprived of it for any time.’