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Darwin Correspondence Project

From P. L. Sclater   17 April 1861

Zoological Society of London, | 11, Hanover Square, | London, W.

April 17th 1861

My dear Sir

In p. 422 of your new edition you say “Madeira does not possess one peculiar bird”—1 This is not quite the fact. Out of the 99 birds given by Mr Vernon Harcourt in Ann. N.H. June 1855 as belonging to its Fauna oneRegulus maderensis is peculiar— it is of course an altered form of R. auricapillus.2 Three others Fringilla canariensis, Cypselus unicolor and Columba trocaz if not peculiar are distinct from European species and only found elsewhere in the Canaries— I am not aware that Cyps. unicolor has been met with even there.

Very faithfully Your’s | P. L. Sclater

CD annotations

Top of first page: ‘19’3 red crayon, circled red crayon; ‘& Origin’4 red crayon


This statement in the third edition of Origin was unchanged from the first edition (Origin, p. 391).
CD included this information in Origin 4th ed., p. 465: Almost every year, I am informed by Mr. E. V. Harcourt, many European and African birds are blown to Madeira; this island is inhabited by 99 kinds, of which one alone is peculiar, though very closely related to a European form; The reference is to Edward William Vernon Harcourt, with whom CD had corresponded on this topic in 1856 (see Correspondence vol. 6, letter from E. W. V. Harcourt, 31 May 1856, and letters to E. W. V. Harcourt, 19 August [1856] and 23 August [1856]). An annotated copy of Harcourt’s paper on the ornithology of Madeira (Harcourt 1855) is in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL. Regulus madeirensis (‘maderensis’ is a misspelling) is the Madeira firecrest; R. auricapillus is a synonym of R. regulus, the goldcrest.
The number of CD’s portfolio of notes on the geographical distribution of animals.
See n. 2, above.


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

Harcourt, Edward Vernon. 1855. Notes on the ornithology of Madeira. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 2d ser. 15: 430–8.

Origin 4th ed.: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 4th edition, with additions and corrections. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1866.

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.


Corrects CD’s statement [Origin, 3d ed.] that Madeira does not possess one peculiar bird. There is one, out of the 99.

Letter details

Letter no.
Philip Lutley Sclater
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Zoological Society
Source of text
DAR 205.3: 292
Physical description
ALS 2pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3121,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 9