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Letter 7274

Tegetmeier, W. B. to Darwin, C. R.

14 July 1870


Sends a letter by Mr Teebay on variation in wild ducks.

Offers to lend Dr Cooper’s book on game fowls.

Is preparing a new edition [1873] of his Poultry book.


Finchley | N

July 14/70

My dear Sir.

I enclose you a proof of a very interesting letter on Variation inWild Ducks by Mr Teebay on whose accuracy of observation I canfully rely.f1

I do not know whether you are working at varieties now. If you arewould you like to look at Dr Cooper’s octavo volume on Gamefowls.— It is an American Treatise on Fighting Cocks.f2 with a vastamount of valuable information in an American form.— — If youwould like to see it I can lend you my own copy or I could get you oneat the publishing price 5 dollars. but mine is very much at yourservice for as long as you like

I am at work on a new edition of my own large poultry book and will,with your permission, avail myself of your store of information inyour work on ‘Variation’.f3

I have lately been making some observations respecting your theoryof analogous variation,f4 & I have thought of collecting theprototypes? of our varieties of pigeons. and comparing with thevarieties.. and having drawings made of each, the analogy is closerthan I could have imagined. After all the breeds of the fancier arebut imitations of the colorations, etc. of wild species of the same group

The cases would form a good subject for a paper—

I am breeding from the Crested Turkey but the young are not yetold enough for me to say whether any have crests. but you shallknow—f5

I have not been able to work much lately at subjects of purelyscientific interest   Fortune holds to many hostages and constrains meto work for her but as my work is congenial I am thankful.

Trusting your health is good | Believe me truly yours | W BTegetmeier

I forget whether or no I ever sent you a drawing of the crestedturkey so forward onef6


White Wild Ducks

I have a pure-bred wild duck and drake that last year had two nestsof young ones. In the first hatch were ten of the true wild duckcolour, and one (which turned out a duck) with pure whiteplumage. In the second nest there was again ten of the true wildcolour and one pure white drake, and a duck all white, except ablack spot on the top of the head and black tail coverts—thisduck is now pure white in plumage. The beaks of the two that werepure white are bright orange; the beak of the other ducks is brightorange, with the saddle on the upper beak much speckled with richblack. The legs of all three are orange, the webs of the feet of amore dusky colour. All three are remarkably slender in form, andhave the long graceful shape of the pure wild duck.

This year the same pair of old birds have eleven youngs ones of thetrue wild duck colour, and one, pure white. Both the old birds werefrom eggs taken from separate wild duck nests, are both pinioned,and the duck has had no access to any other drake.

Early this year the white drake was paired with the white duck. Shehas eight young ones nearly full grown, five of which are pure whitein plumage, the other three white with the small black spot on thetop of the head and black in the coverts. The black on these threeis much less than it was when they were in their first feathers, andwill very likely be replaced with white when they make up theirplumage.

The other duck that had the black spot on the head and the blacktail coverts was paired with a wild drake of the true colour. Hernests having been twice destroyed, she has only four young ones,which are not yet feathered, but from appearance three will be purewhite, and one with the spot on the head and some black above thetail.

The white drake and two ducks have not been pinioned, and during lastautumn and beginning of winter had full liberty of flying miles round,but never, that I know of, alighting anywhere except at their ownponds. When taking a long flight they would go an immense height, andto my mind there are few more beautiful sights than to watch theirmanœvres in the air on a windy day, especially when coming down.

I am totally at a loss to account for these white birds, as theremainder of the old duck’s young are as near like one another andlike their parents as possible, and it is more strange that the nearlywhite duck put to the grey drake should produce white young ones. Itis again singular the the coloured feathers should be all black, notone having had a grey feather. Beautiful as these white birds are, ifthey would retain the black spot on the top of the head, and the blacktail coverts some of them have in their earlier feathers, they wouldbe still more beautiful.

Richard Teebay.

DAR 178: 82, DAR 193: 43



Tegetmeier enclosed an article, ‘White wild ducks’, by RichardTeebay, that appeared in the 18 July 1870 issue of the Field (theannotated cutting is in DAR 193: 43). Teebay described the offspring ofa pair of pinioned wild ducks, among which were three whiteindividuals. He also described the progeny of the whiteindividuals. Tegetmeier was pigeon and poultry editor of the Field (ODNB).
Tegetmeier refers to John W. Cooper and Cooper [1869].
Tegetmeier refers to The poultry book (Tegetmeier 1867) and toVariation. The new edition of The poultry book (Tegetmeier 1873) appeared in monthlyparts between March 1872 and May 1873. Tegetmeier mentioned CD’s workin the preface to the new edition, and quoted a long passage fromVariation on the peafowl (Tegetmeier 1873, pp. 331–2).
In Variation 2: 348, CD had discussed analogous variation, or theappearance of similar characteristics in several varieties or racesdescended from the same, or even distinct, species.
Tegetmeier had sent CD an engraving of the crested turkey andenclosed specimens of the crest feathers in his letter of 20 July 1869(Correspondence vol. 17).
See n. 5, above. The only extant image of the crested turkey in theDarwin Archive–CUL is the one Tegetmeier had already sent. It is inDAR 193: 39.
The word ‘was’ has been crossed through with pen and ‘were’added in the margin.
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