From Edward Blyth 18 May 1868
1 Princess Terrace,
My dear Sir,
I give what replies I can to your various queries.1
1. I am unaware that any gibbon has the laryngeal Sac, with the exception of the siamang, H. syndactylus, peculiar to Sumatra. I think I can safely say that both sexes are equally noisy;2 & the cry, hoc-co, hoc-co, (with modifications in the different species) although much louder, is essentially like that of the chimpanzee, & these animals bear a considerable resemblance to the chimpanzee in visage. I never heard an orang-utan emit a loud cry of any kind.
2. I do not believe that chameleons ever fight, & I do not remember the passage in L. and W. giving an account of a male Anolis fighting.3
3. The two lesser fire-back pheasants, Euplocamus erythropthalmus & its Bornean ally, are remarkable for having wholly black females with well-spurred tarsi, & the crimson on the cheeks is also well developed in the hen bird.4 The Burmese pea-hen (spiciferus) is always conspicuously spurred, & the common or Indian pea-hen is very commonly so—5 I once obtained the skin of a wild jungle-hen with well developed spurs. It is now in the Mus. As. Soc., Calcutta—6 Plumage that of an ordinary jungle-hen.
4. I am tolerably sure that both sexes of storks clatter their beaks, especially as I have seen several of the large Indian adjutants do so at the same time, & the great probability is that they were not all of one sex.7 But I will see further to this.
5. I never heard of male Turnices 8 fighting.
6. In the British larger pied woodpecker, both sexes of the young have a crimson patch (or rather tips to the feathers of) the vertex, whilst the adult male has a crimson occipital crescent, & the old female no red whatever.9
In Buceros nipalensis the old female is wholly black excepting on tail, while the male has the head, neck, and under-parts bright ferruginous.10 In the only nestling-bird I have seen (sex unknown) the colouring was that of the adult male. In our British blackbird & stone-chat the sexes are readily distinguishable in the nest.11 In Palæornis javanicus the nestling male only has the upper mandible coral-red, it being black in the female until the second year or so, when it becomes red as in the male.12 I know of no vividly coloured young birds which are duller when adult, beyond such cases as the barred juvenile plumage of Cuculus canorus, & the stripes of the young emu & analogous cases. There are species of egret-heron in which the young are white & the adults slate-coloured, as A. cærulea & A. asha; others in which there is both a white & a slate-coloured phase at all ages, as A. jugularis (the white phase of which is Herodias Greyi, Gray); and the African A. gularis would appear also to have the same two phases, for I have now by me a dark ash-coloured one in its first plumage, & a purely white adult with dorsal train, that has a portion only of two wing-feathers (a tertiary & one of its coverts) dark ashy.13
In this instance it would appear that the reverse change had taken place to what occurs regularly in A. cærulea & A. asha! But I suspect that both young & adults of A. gularis occur in the white as well as in the slate-coloured phase, and also more or less pied, which does not appear to be the case with jugularis, & Greyi is therefore recognised as distinct by Gould, following McGillivray, whom he quotes in his “Handbook of the Birds of Australia,” Vol 2, p. 309.14
—In the Z. G. there is now a recently captured Ibis rubra retaining some of its dark first feathers, while the rest of its plumage (save the neck) is deep scarlet; shewing that the latter here is not due to age.15 In captivity, at least in this country, the plumage of the Ibis rubra is never of more than a very dilute scarlet.—
By the way, I could never understand why the Plumbago rosea was so named, for in India its flowers are intense crimson, but at Kew I see that its flowers are only roseate.
This plant is a splendid ornament of the Burmese jungles, & its masses of crimson, and the masses of beautiful blue which I have there seen of Eranthemum erectum, do not bear out Wallace’s remark that there is no display in a tropical jungle to compare with an English display of Hyacinthus non scriptus. The fine crimson flowers of Euphorbia jacquiniflora 16 are much more brilliant under a tropical sun, & I could mention other instances,—Euph. Bogiri 17 for one. This however is a digression.
Yours Sincerely, | E. Blyth
Replies to CD’s queries regarding sexual differences in gibbons’ voices, chameleon behaviour, and the occurrence of spurs in pheasants and peahens. Discusses sexual differences in structure and habit within certain bird species.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6180,” accessed on 9 December 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-6180