Glad to have JJW's opinion on nest-building. Wallace's view [that skill is learned] is opposed to many facts.
Asks JJW about birds and their behaviour.
Wants information on the first plumage of different breeds of canaries.
Down Bromley Kent
My dear Sir
I am glad to hear your opinion on the nest-making-instinct, for I am Tory enough not to like to give up all old beliefs. Wallace's view is, also, opposed to a great mass of analogical facts.— The cases which you mention of suddenly reacquired wildness seem curious.
I have, also, to thank you for a previous valuable letter.
With respect to spurs on ♀ Gallinaceæ, I applied to
(1) In your letter of April 14
(2) Is it true, as often stated, that a bird reared by foster-parents, & who has never heard the song of its own species, imitates to a certain extent the song of the species, which it may be in the habit of hearing?
Now for a more troublesome point. I find it very necessary to make out relation of immature plumage to adult plumage, both when the sexes differ & are alike in the adult state.— Therefore I want much to learn about the first plumage, (answering for instance to the speckled state of the robin before it acquires the red breast) of the several vars. of the Canary.— Can you help me?
What is character or colour of the first plumage of
bright yellow or mealy canaries, which breed true to these
tints? So with the mottled-brown canaries, for I believe
that there are breeds which always come brown & mottled.—
Lastly in the ``prize-canaries'', which have black wing &
tail-feathers during their first(?) plumage, what colours
are the wings & tail after the first(?) moult or when adult?
Heaven have mercy on you, for it is clear that I have
none.— I am going to investigate this same point with all
the breeds of fowls; as M
In the course of this next month, I hope you will come
down here on the Saturday & stay over the Sunday. Some
months ago M
With cordial thanks for your never failing kindness | My dear Sir | Yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin
Did you ever hear of the existence of any sub-breed of the Canary, in which male differs in plumage from the female.—
- f1 6215.f1The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from Edward Blyth, 18 May 1868.
- f2 6215.f2See letter from J. J. Weir, [before 30 May 1868]; Weir's comments on the nest-building instinct may have been in the missing portion of this letter. CD and Alfred Russel Wallace had been discussing Wallace's hypothesis that the coloration of some birds was related to their nesting habits (see, for example, the letter to A. R. Wallace, 5 May  and n. 7). See also letter to J. J. Weir, 18 April , and letter from J. J. Weir, 20 April 1868.
- f3 6215.f3See letter from J. J. Weir, 18 May 1868, and letter from Edward Blyth, 18 May 1868 and nn. 4 and 5. Blyth actually wrote to CD about Pavo spiciferus. See also letter from J. J. Weir, 23 March 1868 and n. 7.
- f4 6215.f4CD refers to his work on sexual selection in birds for Descent (Descent 2: 138--238).
- f5 6215.f5See letter from J. J. Weir, [14 April 1868].
- f6 6215.f6CD discussed the relation between immature and adult plumage in Descent 2: 183--223; he did not discuss canaries in this section.
- f7 6215.f7See letter to W. B. Tegetmeier, 20 May , and letter from W. B. Tegetmeier, 25 May 1868.
- f8 6215.f8See also letter to H. W. Bates, 21 May . Weir apparently did not visit Down in June (see letter to J. J. Weir, 5 June 1868).