JJW's note on birds was one of the most interesting CD has ever received. Asks several questions. CD is puzzled by cases of magpies whose mates were killed but who always immediately found others.
Alexander Wallace denies any effect of colour in sexual selection among Lepidoptera.
Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.
My dear Sir
I have hardly ever received a note which has interested me
more than y
I had a few cases of birds perceiving slight changes in the
dress of their owners, but y
Do you know of any birds besides some of the gallinacæ which are polygamous?
Do you know of any birds besides pigeons, & as it is said, the raven which pair for their whole lives.
Many years ago I visited your brother who shewed me his
pigeons & gave me some valuable information. Could you persuade him
(but I fear he w
For the chance of y
With cordial thanks believe me | yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin
P.S. I have somewhere safe references to cases of magpies, of which one of a pair has been repeatedly (I think seven times) killed, & yet another mate was always immediately found— A gamekeeper told me yesterday of analogous case. This perplexes me much. Are there many unmarried birds? I can hardly believe it.— Or will one of a pair, of which the nest has been robbed, or which are barren, always desert his or her mate, for a strange mate with the attraction of a nest, & in one instance with young birds in the nest? The gamekeeper said during breeding season he had never observed a single or unpaired Partridge. How can the sexes be so equally matched?
His observations no doubt apply to English Lepidoptera in most of
which, the sexes are alike. The Brimstone or Oran-tip w
I think I have often seen several males following one female—& what decides which male shall succeed? How is this about several males; is it not so?
- f1 5958.f1The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from J. J. Weir, [after 27 February] 1868.
- f2 5958.f2Letter from J. J. Weir, [after 27 February] 1868.
- f3 5958.f3CD had visited Harrision William Weir in 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 15 March ). He is acknowledged for providing information on pigeons in Variation 1: 132 n. 2.
- f4 5958.f4Weir's name appears on CD's presentation list for the second printing of Variation (see Correspondence vol. 16, Appendix IV). CD refers to his publisher, John Murray.
- f5 5958.f5CD received information on magpies and partridges from William Reeves, a gamekeeper employed by John Lubbock. The note containing this information is in DAR 84.2: 202. See also letter to W. D. Fox, 25 February  and n. 2.
- f6 5958.f6See letter from Alexander Wallace, 28 February 1868.
- f7 5958.f7The brimstone is Gonepteryx rhamni; the orange tip is Anthocharis cardamines. CD had asked about these butterflies in his letter to H. T. Stainton, 28 February .