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Darwin Correspondence Project


To A. D. Bartlett   15 September 1871

Down, | Beckenham, Kent.

Sep 15. 1871

My dear Sir

As on many former occasions, I am going to beg earnestly for a little information.1 Judging from the structure of the beak & published accounts I imagine that the common goose does not sift the water out of the sides of its beak, like a duck. Is this so? Does any species of goose sift the water in a partial manner, as well as use its beak in tearing or biting herbage? I am trying to trace gradation in structure & habits, & this wd be a very useful piece of information.2

The common goose has lamellæ on the borders of the beak, partly confluent, & which seem to serve as teeth. Now has any goose quite a smooth beak? or has any goose (& this wd be more useful to me) less developed lamellæ, knobs or teeth, than has the common goose? If yr son has a specimen, not very expensive, of any such goose i.e. with beak nearly smooth (if such exists) I shd be much obliged if he wd send it to me in a paper parcel addressed C. Darwin Esq. Orpington Station.3 S.E.R.

As you are so busy, perhaps yr son wd be so kind as to answer for you any of the above questions on which you can give me information. The beak of the Shoveller Duck which I procured from your son is one of the most beautiful structures which I ever saw.4

My dear Sir | yours sincerely | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I enclose an addressed evelope to save you as much trouble as possible.


See, for example, Correspondence vol. 18, letter to A. D. Bartlett, 5 January [1870].
The common goose is probably the domestic goose, Anser anser domesticus; see also letter to Osbert Salvin, 10 September [1871]. CD cited Edward Bartlett’s observations of the eating habits of geese and their beak structures in Origin 6th ed., pp. 184–5 (see n. 3, below).
Edward Bartlett, A. D. Bartlett’s son, was assisting his father at the gardens of the Zoological Society of London.
The shoveller duck is now the northern shoveller, Anas clypeata. Edward Bartlett sent CD bird skins; see letter to Edward Bartlett, 1 July [1871]; these standardly include bones and beak along with skin and feathers.


CD questions ADB on the mode of feeding of geese and on the existence of variations in the structure of the bill; is trying to trace gradations in structure and habits.

Letter details

Letter no.
Darwin, C. R.
Bartlett, A. D.
Sent from
Source of text
Houghton Library, Harvard University (Autograph File, D (Acquisition: *42M-1962))
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7944,” accessed on 27 October 2016,