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Darwin Correspondence Project

From W. B. Tegetmeier   29 March 1867

The Field. | 346, Strand, | London, W.C.

March 29 1867

My dear Sir

I delayed day after day replying to yours of the 5th. thinking I might have something special to communicate but now write a general answer— I know nothing about the Case of the Widow bird—1

But as far as regards polygamous birds do not think the statement has any foundation whatever—2

A Game cock closely trimmed for fighting is as unlike an ordinary male fowl as a bird can well be, yet he is always well received by the hens and as in these birds the male always forces the female if reluctant I do not think it is likely that he would be ill received—

If two or more cocks are turned down the hens will receive anyone willingly but the strongest and most valiant chastises the others if he perceives them pursuing the hens.— certainly I think appearance has but little to do with the reception of the cock in fowls— I have just turned down a polish bird (crested) with some white cochin hens removed the same day from white cochin cocks   the advances of the polish male (though totally different in colour tail crest and general appearance) were received

I cannot personally try the experiment in any of my runs as they only contain a single cock each—but I will do what I can elsewhere—

Have you any objection to my enquiring in my own name in the Field. I might get some useful information—

I send you a few slips of a letter Mr Wallace published last week in the Field thinking, if you wished to circulate the queries they might save writing copies3

I shall be happy to make any experiments in my power

do [you] not think dying a white male pigeon magenta colour which is easily done and seeing whether his wife knows him, would be of any bearing on the question4

Believe me | Yours truly | W B Tegetmeier

CD annotations

1.1 I delayed … bird— 1.3] crossed pencil
5.1 I … copies 7.2] crossed pencil


See letter to Tegetmeier, 5 March [1867] and n. 1.
In Descent 2: 117, CD noted that he had received long letters concerning the ‘courtship of fowls’ from Tegetmeier and two other observers, and that none of these believed that females preferred particular males because of the beauty of their plumage. In Descent 1: 269, CD wrote that widow-birds were evidently polygamous.
A letter from Alfred Russel Wallace to the Field, 23 March 1867, p. 206, requested information for himself and CD on the preferences of insectivorous birds for particular caterpillars; he asked readers who kept birds to offer them a variety of caterpillars, and observe their choices. For the first responses to a similar request from Wallace following his correspondence on the subject with CD, see the letter from A. R. Wallace, 11 March [1867] and n. 7.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Answers CD’s queries about polygamous birds. Does not think appearance of cock makes any difference to female. Dyeing the male has no effect on female.

Letter details

Letter no.
William Bernhard Tegetmeier
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
The Field
Source of text
DAR 84.1: 30–1
Physical description
4pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5473,” accessed on 23 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 15