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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Philip Lutley Sclater   [3? February 1860]1

Land-birds of Galapagoes2

1. Craxirex galapagoensis. I believe to be difft. from anything on the main.

2. Strix punctatissima occurs in Ecuador. I have examined speci- mens collected by Fraser at Quito.3

3. Otus galapagoensis occurs in S.A. as I believe

4. Progne modesta I have never seen from the main.

5. Pyrocephalus nanus occurs in Ecuador (Fraser) at least I believe it the same4

6 — dubius a doubtful species? probably = nanus.

7 Myiobius magnirostris, probably peculiar to Galapagoes


9 Three Mimi all peculiar but M. parvulus is hardly

10 separable fr. M. melanotis

11. ‘Wren’ Journal p. 378. I do not know what this is: not Zool. of Beagle?5

12. Zenaida galapagoensis probably occurs on mainland—

13–25—&Geospizinæ— I have every reason to believe this group of Finches quite peculiar to these islands and “Bow island” whence one was obtd. during voyage of the ‘Sulphur’ see Zool. of Sulphur p. 426

P. L. S.

CD annotations

2.1 Strix punctatissima] cross added pencil
3.1 Otus galapagoensis] nought added pencil
5.1 Pyrocephalus nanus] cross added pencil
7.1 Myiobius] ‘= Tyrannula’ added ink over pencil
11.1 ‘Wren’] ’Sylvicola aureola‘ added ink over pencil
12.1 Zenaida] nought added pencil
Top of list: ‘X certainly manld | 0 probably mainland’ pencil, circled pencil
Bottom of list: ‘Feb 4th 1860 | L. P. Sclater’7 ink; ‘Copy of Journal’8 pencil; ‘(19)’9 brown crayon


The date is based on CD’s annotation and on his remark in the preceding letter that he had not yet received Sclater’s information. Although the section of the preface to Journal of researches (1860) that includes Sclater’s revisions is dated 1 February 1860, it seems that CD did not send the manuscript to John Murray until 4 February (see letter to John Murray, 4 February [1860]).
In earlier editions of Journal of researches, CD stated that all but one of the twenty-six species of land birds found on the Galápagos Islands were peculiar to the islands (Journal of researches, p. 461; 2d ed., p. 378). CD repeated this information in Origin, pp. 390, 397–8. He may have asked Sclater, who was secretary of the Zoological Society in 1860, to check the validity of this statement after having heard from William Jardine that some of these species had since been found on the mainland (Correspondence vol. 7, letter from William Jardine, 20 December 1859, and letter to Charles Lyell, 22 [December 1859]). Sclater’s list gives the additional localities in which several Galápagos birds had been found. The species listed are Craxirex galapagoensis (a synonym of Bureo galapagoensis, the Galapagos hawk), Strix punctatissima (a synonym of Tyto furcata subsp. punctatissima, the Galapagos barn owl), Otus galapagoensis (a synonym of Asio flammeus subsp. galapagoensis, the short-eared owl), Progne modesta (the Galapagos martin), Pyrocephalus nanus (a synonym of P. rubinus subsp. nanus, the Galapagos vermilion flycatcher), Pyrocephalus dubius (the San Cristobal flycatcher), Myiobius magnirostris (a synonym of Myiarchus magnirostris, the Galapagos flycatcher), Mimus parvulus(the Galapagos mockingbird), M. melanotis (the San Cristobal mockingbird), and Zenaida galapagoensis (the Galapagos dove).
Louis Fraser, a former curator of the Zoological Society museum, was collecting in South America. Sclater had described the birds Fraser collected near Quito at a meeting of the Zoological Society on 24 January 1860, commenting in the description of Strix punctatissima that it was ‘Hitherto only known from the Galapagos.’ (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London pt 28 (1860): 82).
At a later meeting of the society, Sclater listed Pyrocephalus nanus Gould as possibly the species obtained by Fraser in Ecuador (Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London pt 28 (1860): 282).
Sclater refers to Journal of researches 2d ed., p. 378. In Birds (part 3 of The zoology of the voyage of H. M. S. Beagle), the wren was named Sylvicola aureola (a synonym of Setophaga petechia subsp. aureola, the mangrove warbler) (see letter to P. L. Sclater, 4 February [1860]).
The Geospizinae are the Galápagos finches, now popularly known as Darwin’s finches. In 1843 the exploring expedition led by Edward Belcher reported the discovery of another species belonging to the Geospizinae, Cactornis inornatus, on Bow Island in the Low Archipelago (now known as Hao in the Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia). See Belcher 1844, vol. 1, p. 42; see also Correspondence vol. 2, letters from RBHinds, 21 April 1843, and 19 July [1843]. This finch has subsequently been attributed to Cocos Island, south-west of Costa Rica, instead of to Bow Island (Richmond 1902). CD had expressed doubts about the place of origin of the specimen in Birds, p. 105.
The date given by CD is presumably that of receipt. See letter to P. L. Sclater, 4 February [1860]. CD mistakenly transposed Sclater’s initials.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes relating to the geographical distribution of animals.


Belcher, Edward. 1844. Zoology of the Voyage of HMS "Sulphur". Edited by Richard Brinsley Hinds. 2 vols. London.

Birds: Pt 3 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. By John Gould. Edited and superintended by Charles Darwin. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1839–41.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Journal of researches (1860): Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle around the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. By Charles Darwin. Reprint edition. London: John Murray. 1860.

Journal of researches 2d ed.: Journal of researches into the natural history and geology of the countries visited during the voyage of HMS Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. FitzRoy RN. 2d edition, corrected, with additions. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1845.

Journal of researches: Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain FitzRoy, RN, from 1832 to 1836. By Charles Darwin. London: Henry Colburn. 1839.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.

Richmond, Charles W. 1902. Note on Pinaroloxias inornata (Gould). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 15: 247–8.


Lists land birds of Galapagos and discusses their distribution on mainland of S. America.

Letter details

Letter no.
Philip Lutley Sclater
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 289
Physical description
AmemS 1p

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2683,” accessed on 27 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8