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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Christy to W. B. Tegetmeier1   11 February 1857

Surrey Square2

11 Feby 1857

My dear Sir,

I have to apologize for not answering your note before but I have been down to Stockport. I was in hopes I could have found some letters I had in reply to mine respecting the pigeons I had to let fly for a Society at Brussells but I cannot find them so I must have lent them to someone to read and they have never returned them

I let fly 64 Pigeons in London and the first bird returned to Brussells in 712 hours and several in a few minutes after

I have had a pigeon come from Stockport to Surrey Square in 7 hours 180 miles and have had many come from Goodward3 in 1 hour and 8 and 10 minutes that is about 68 to 70 miles. a good pigeon flys about 1 mile a minute, my Pigeons come from Aperfield to Surrey Square in about 17 to 18 minutes and from Dovor in about 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes, it depends very much on the weather and a fine clear day and if a pigeon is in good practice from a place and the wind in the right direction it should blow very little, and the same way the pigeon travels, if it does blow at all but the stiller the day the better and not too hot the heat affects them much

I trust this will be a little information for your friend

I am | Yours very truly | Alfred Christy

CD annotations

2.1 to Brussells] ‘about 140 miles’ added pencil
Top of first page: ‘18’4 brown crayon CD note:5
Feb. 13th/57/ It seems from Mr Christy facts that for distances under 60 miles Pigeons Fly for 30 to 40 geographical miles.6 Therefore I think estimates of ornithologist exaggerated—[yet Major Carter].— For longer distances only about 20 geograph. miles.— I suspect that they rest on road.— But how far this will apply to bird blown by gales of wind, I do not know; & such I shd think was origin of those which arrive at Madeira, many of which are not regular migrators. I think 30 miles per hour in gale wd not be too much, when one think of rate which a Bird will fly down a gale. Hurricane blow Birds to Mauritius & Jamaica7


The recipient is identified on the basis that CD frequently called upon William Bernhard Tegetmeier for information from various pigeon-fanciers with whom he was acquainted. CD had previously inquired about the distances carrier pigeons could fly (see letter to J. A. H. de Bosquet, [before 3 November 1856]).
In the Post Office London directory 1857, Alfred Christy is listed in the court directory as residing in Surrey Square, Old Kent Road.
Christy probably refers to Goodwood in Surrey.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the means of dispersal of plants and animals.
The note is with the letter in DAR 205.2 (Letters).
A geographical or nautical mile is one minute of longitude measured along the equator.
The last sentence of this note was written in pencil. Associated with this letter is another page of notes by CD (preserved in DAR 205.2 (Letters)) in which he noted the times and distances of pigeon flights as given in various sources on pigeons.


Post Office London directory: Post-Office annual directory. … A list of the principal merchants, traders of eminence, &c. in the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and parts adjacent … general and special information relating to the Post Office. Post Office London directory. London: His Majesty’s Postmaster-General [and others]. 1802–1967.


Sends information on the speed at which his pigeons fly various distances.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Christy
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Sent from
London, Surrey Square
Source of text
DAR 205.2: 219
Physical description
4pp †, 3 CD notes

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2052,” accessed on 4 July 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6