The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin - HTML preview
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Secondary Sexual Characters Of Birds
Sexual differences--Law of battle--Special weapons--Vocal organs-- Instrumental music
-Love-antics and dances--Decorations, permanent and seasonal--Double and single annual moults--Display of ornaments by the males.
Secondary sexual characters are more diversified and conspicuous in birds, though not perhaps entailing more important changes of structure, than in any other class of animals. I shall, therefore, treat the subject at considerable length. Male birds sometimes, though rarely, possess special weapons for fighting with each other. They charm the female by vocal or instrumental music of the most varied kinds. They are ornamented by all sorts of combs, wattles, protuberances, horns, air-distended sacks, top- knots, naked shafts, plumes and lengthened feathers gracefully springing from all parts of the body. The beak and naked skin about the head, and the feathers, are often gorgeously coloured. The males sometimes pay their court by dancing, or by fantastic antics performed either on the ground or in the air. In one instance, at least, the male emits a musky odour, which we may suppose serves to charm or excite the female; for that excellent observer, Mr. Ramsay (1. 'Ibis,' vol. iii. (new series), 1867, p. 414.), says of the Australian musk-duck (Biziura lobata) that "the smell which the male emits during the summer months is confined to that sex, and in some individuals is retained throughout the year; I have never, even in the breeding-season, shot a female which had any smell of musk." So powerful is this odour during the pairing-season, that it can be detected long before the bird can be seen. (2. Gould, 'Handbook of the Birds of Australia,' 1865, vol. ii. p. 383.) On the whole, birds appear to be the most aesthetic of all animals, excepting of course man, and they have nearly the same taste for the beautiful as we have. This is shewn by our enjoyment of the singing of birds, and by our women, both civilised and savage, decking their heads with borrowed plumes, and using gems which are hardly more brilliantly coloured than the naked skin and wattles of certain birds. In man, however, when cultivated, the sense of beauty is manifestly a far more complex feeling, and is associated with various intellectual ideas.
Before treating of the sexual characters with which we are here more particularly concerned, I may just allude to certain differences between the sexes which apparently depend on differences in their habits of life; for such cases, though common in the lower, are rare in the higher classes. Two humming-birds belonging to the genus Eustephanus, which inhabit the island of Juan Fernandez, were long thought to be specifically distinct, but are now known, as Mr. Gould informs me, to be the male and female of the same species, and they differ slightly in the form of the beak. In another genus of hummingbirds (Grypus), the beak of the male is serrated along the margin and hooked at the extremity, thus differing much from that of the female. In the Neomorpha of New Zealand, there is, as we have seen, a still wider difference in the form of the beak in relation to the manner of feeding of the two sexes. Something of the same kind has been observed with the goldfinch (Carduelis elegans), for I am assured by Mr. J. Jenner Weir that the bird-catchers can distinguish the males by their slightly longer beaks. The flocks of males are often found feeding on the seeds of the teazle (Dipsacus), which they can reach with their elongated beaks, whilst the females more commonly feed on the seeds of the betony or Scrophularia. With a slight difference of this kind as a foundation, we can see how the beaks of the two sexes might be made to differ greatly through natural selection. In some of the above cases, however, it is possible that the beaks of the males may have been first modified in relation to their contests with other males; and that this afterwards led to slightly changed habits of life.LAW OF BATTLE.
Almost all male birds are extremely pugnacious, using their beaks, wings, and legs for fighting together. We see this every spring with our robins and sparrows. The smallest of all birds, namely the humming-bird, is one of the most quarrelsome. Mr. Gosse (3. Quoted by Mr. Gould, 'Introduction to the Trochilidae,' 1861, page 29.) describes a battle in which a pair seized hold of each other's beaks, and whirled round and round, till they almost fell to the ground; and M. Montes de Oca, in speaking or another genus of humming-bird, says that two males rarely meet without a fierce aerial encounter: when kept in cages "their fighting has mostly ended in the splitting of the tongue of one of the two, which then surely dies from being unable to feed." (4. Gould, ibid. p. 52.) With waders, the males of the common water-hen (Gallinula chloropus) "when pairing, fight violently for the females: they stand nearly upright in the water and strike with their feet." Two were seen to be thus engaged for half an hour, until one got hold of the head of the other, which would have been killed had not the observer interfered; the female all the time looking on as a quiet spectator. (5. W. Thompson, 'Natural History of Ireland: Birds,' vol. ii. 1850, p. 327.) Mr. Blyth informs me that the males of an allied bird (Gallicrex cristatus) are a third larger than the females, and are so pugnacious during the breedingseason that they are kept by the natives of Eastern Bengal for the sake of fighting. Various other birds are kept in India for the same purpose, for instance, the bulbuls (Pycnonotus hoemorrhous) which "fight with great spirit." (6. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' 1863, vol. ii. p. 96.)[Fig. 37. The Ruff or Machetes pugnax (from Brehm's 'Thierleben').]
The polygamous ruff (Machetes pugnax, Fig. 37) is notorious for his extreme pugnacity; and in the spring, the males, which are considerably larger than the females, congregate day after day at a particular spot, where the females propose to lay their eggs. The fowlers discover these spots by the turf being trampled somewhat bare. Here they fight very much like game- cocks, seizing each other with their beaks and striking with their wings. The great ruff of feathers round the neck is then erected, and according to Col. Montagu "sweeps the ground as a shield to defend the more tender parts"; and this is the only instance known to me in the case of birds of any structure serving as a shield. The ruff of feathers, however, from its varied and rich colours probably serves in chief part as an ornament. Like most pugnacious birds, they seem always ready to fight, and when closely confined, often kill each other; but Montagu observed that their pugnacity becomes greater during the spring, when the long feathers on their necks are fully developed; and at this period the least movement by any one bird provokes a general battle. (7. Macgillivray, 'History of British Birds,' vol. iv. 1852, pp. 177-181.) Of the pugnacity of web-footed birds, two instances will suffice: in Guiana "bloody fights occur during the breeding-season between the males of the wild musk-duck (Cairina moschata); and where these fights have occurred the river is covered for some distance with feathers." (8. Sir R. Schomburgk, in 'Journal of Royal Geographic Society,' vol. xiii. 1843, p. 31.) Birds which seem ill-adapted for fighting engage in fierce conflicts; thus the stronger males of the pelican drive away the weaker ones, snapping with their huge beaks and giving heavy blows with their wings. Male snipe fight together, "tugging and pushing each other with their bills in the most curious manner imaginable." Some few birds are believed never to fight; this is the case, according to Audubon, with one of the woodpeckers of the United States (Picu sauratus), although "the hens are followed by even half a dozen of their gay suitors." (9. 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. i. p. 191. For pelicans and snipes, see vol. iii. pp. 138, 477.)
The males of many birds are larger than the females, and this no doubt is the result of the advantage gained by the larger and stronger males over their rivals during many generations. The difference in size between the two sexes is carried to an extreme point in several Australian species; thus the male musk-duck (Biziura), and the male Cincloramphus cruralis (allied to our pipits) are by measurement actually twice as large as their respective females. (10. Gould, 'Handbook of Birds of Australia,' vol. i. p. 395; vol. ii. p. 383.) With many other birds the females are larger than the males; and, as formerly remarked, the explanation often given, namely, that the females have most of the work in feeding their young, will not suffice. In some few cases, as we shall hereafter see, the females apparently have acquired their greater size and strength for the sake of conquering other females and obtaining possession of the males.
The males of many gallinaceous birds, especially of the polygamous kinds, are furnished with special weapons for fighting with their rivals, namely spurs, which can be used with fearful effect. It has been recorded by a trustworthy writer (11. Mr. Hewitt, in the 'Poultry Book' by Tegetmeier, 1866, p. 137.) that in Derbyshire a kite struck at a game-hen accompanied by her chickens, when the cock rushed to the rescue, and drove his spur right through the eye and skull of the aggressor. The spur was with difficulty drawn from the skull, and as the kite, though dead, retained his grasp, the two birds were firmly locked together; but the cock when disentangled was very little injured. The invincible courage of the game- cock is notorious: a gentleman who long ago witnessed the brutal scene, told me that a bird had both its legs broken by some accident in the cockpit, and the owner laid a wager that if the legs could be spliced so that the bird could stand upright, he would continue fighting. This was effected on the spot, and the bird fought with undaunted courage until he received his death-stroke. In Ceylon a closely allied, wild species, the Gallus Stanleyi, is known to fight desperately "in defence of his seraglio," so that one of the combatants is frequently found dead. (12. Layard, 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History,' vol. xiv. 1854, p. 63.) An Indian partridge (Ortygornis gularis), the male of which is furnished with strong and sharp spurs, is so quarrelsome "that the scars of former fights disfigure the breast of almost every bird you kill." (13. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 574.)
The males of almost all gallinaceous birds, even those which are not furnished with spurs, engage during the breeding-season in fierce conflicts. The Capercailzie and Black-cock (Tetrao urogallus and T. tetrix), which are both polygamists, have regular appointed places, where during many weeks they congregate in numbers to fight together and to display their charms before the females. Dr. W. Kovalevsky informs me that in Russia he has seen the snow all bloody on the arenas where the capercailzie have fought; and the black-cocks "make the feathers fly in every direction," when several "engage in a battle royal." The elder Brehm gives a curious account of the Balz, as the love-dances and lovesongs of the Black-cock are called in Germany. The bird utters almost continuously the strangest noises: "he holds his tail up and spreads it out like a fan, he lifts up his head and neck with all the feathers erect, and stretches his wings from the body. Then he takes a few jumps in different directions, sometimes in a circle, and presses the under part of his beak so hard against the ground that the chin feathers are rubbed off. During these movements he beats his wings and turns round and round. The more ardent he grows the more lively he becomes, until at last the bird appears like a frantic creature." At such times the black-cocks are so absorbed that they become almost blind and deaf, but less so than the capercailzie: hence bird after bird may be shot on the same spot, or even caught by the hand. After performing these antics the males begin to fight: and the same blackcock, in order to prove his strength over several antagonists, will visit in the course of one morning several Balz-places, which remain the same during successive years. (14. Brehm, 'Thierleben,' 1867, B. iv. s. 351. Some of the foregoing statements are taken from L. Lloyd, 'The Game Birds of Sweden,' etc., 1867, p. 79.)
The peacock with his long train appears more like a dandy than a warrior, but he sometimes engages in fierce contests: the Rev. W. Darwin Fox informs me that at some little distance from Chester two peacocks became so excited whilst fighting, that they flew over the whole city, still engaged, until they alighted on the top of St. John's tower.
The spur, in those gallinaceous birds which are thus provided, is generally single; but Polyplectron (Fig. 51) has two or more on each leg; and one of the Blood-pheasants (Ithaginis cruentus) has been seen with five spurs. The spurs are generally confined to the male, being represented by mere knobs or rudiments in the female; but the females of the Java peacock (Pavo muticus) and, as I am informed by Mr. Blyth, of the small firebacked pheasant (Euplocamus erythrophthalmus) possess spurs. In Galloperdix it is usual for the males to have two spurs, and for the females to have only one on each leg. (15. Jerdon, 'Birds of India': on Ithaginis, vol. iii. p. 523; on Galloperdix, p. 541.) Hence spurs may be considered as a masculine structure, which has been occasionally more or less transferred to the females. Like most other secondary sexual characters, the spurs are highly variable, both in number and development, in the same species.[Fig.38. Palamedea cornuta (from Brehm), shewing the double wing-spurs, and the filament on the head.]
Various birds have spurs on their wings. But the Egyptian goose (Chenalopex aegyptiacus) has only "bare obtuse knobs," and these probably shew us the first steps by which true spurs have been developed in other species. In the spur-winged goose, Plectropterus gambensis, the males have much larger spurs than the females; and they use them, as I am informed by Mr. Bartlett, in fighting together, so that, in this case, the wing-spurs serve as sexual weapons; but according to Livingstone, they are chiefly used in the defence of the young. The Palamedea (Fig. 38) is armed with a pair of spurs on each wing; and these are such formidable weapons that a single blow has been known to drive a dog howling away. But it does not appear that the spurs in this case, or in that of some of the spur-winged rails, are larger in the male than in the female. (16. For the Egyptian goose, see Macgillivray, 'British Birds,' vol. iv. p. 639. For Plectropterus, Livingstone's 'Travels,' p. 254. For Palamedea, Brehm's 'Thierleben,' B. iv. s. 740. See also on this bird Azara, 'Voyages dans l'Amerique merid.' tom. iv. 1809, pp. 179, 253.) In certain plovers, however, the wing-spurs must be considered as a sexual character. Thus in the male of our common peewit (Vanellus cristatus) the tubercle on the shoulder of the wing becomes more prominent during the breeding-season, and the males fight together. In some species of Lobivanellus a similar tubercle becomes developed during the breeding-season "into a short horny spur." In the Australian L. lobatus both sexes have spurs, but these are much larger in the males than in the females. In an allied bird, the Hoplopterus armatus, the spurs do not increase in size during the breeding- season; but these birds have been seen in Egypt to fight together, in the same manner as our peewits, by turning suddenly in the air and striking sideways at each other, sometimes with fatal results. Thus also they drive away other enemies. (17. See, on our peewit, Mr. R. Carr in 'Land and Water,' Aug. 8th, 1868, p. 46. In regard to Lobivanellus, see Jerdon's 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 647, and Gould's 'Handbook of Birds of Australia,' vol. ii. p. 220. For the Hoplopterus, see Mr. Allen in the 'Ibis,' vol. v. 1863, p. 156.)
The season of love is that of battle; but the males of some birds, as of the game-fowl and ruff, and even the young males of the wild turkey and grouse (18. Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. ii. p. 492; vol. i. pp. 4-13.), are ready to fight whenever they meet. The presence of the female is the teterrima belli causa. The Bengali baboos make the pretty little males of the amadavat (Estrelda amandava) fight together by placing three small cages in a row, with a female in the middle; after a little time the two males are turned loose, and immediately a desperate battle ensues. (19. Mr. Blyth, 'Land and Water,' 1867, p. 212.) When many males congregate at the same appointed spot and fight together, as in the case of grouse and various other birds, they are generally attended by the females (20. Richardson on Tetrao umbellus, 'Fauna Bor. Amer.: Birds,' 1831, p. 343. L. Lloyd, 'Game Birds of Sweden,' 1867, pp. 22, 79, on the capercailzie and blackcock. Brehm, however, asserts ('Thierleben,' B. iv. s. 352) that in Germany the grey-hens do not generally attend the Balzen of the black-cocks, but this is an exception to the common rule; possibly the hens may lie hidden in the surrounding bushes, as is known to be the case with the gray-hens in Scandinavia, and with other species in N. America.), which afterwards pair with the victorious combatants. But in some cases the pairing precedes instead of succeeding the combat: thus according to Audubon (21. 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. ii. p. 275.), several males of the Virginian goat-sucker (Caprimulgus virgianus) "court, in a highly entertaining manner the female, and no sooner has she made her choice, than her approved gives chase to all intruders, and drives them beyond his dominions." Generally the males try to drive away or kill their rivals before they pair. It does not, however, appear that the females invariably prefer the victorious males. I have indeed been assured by Dr. W. Kovalevsky that the female capercailzie sometimes steals away with a young male who has not dared to enter the arena with the older cocks, in the same manner as occasionally happens with the does of the red-deer in Scotland. When two males contend in presence of a single female, the victor, no doubt, commonly gains his desire; but some of these battles are caused by wandering males trying to distract the peace of an already mated pair. (22. Brehm, 'Thierleben,' etc., B. iv. 1867, p. 990. Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. ii. p. 492.)
Even with the most pugnacious species it is probable that the pairing does not depend exclusively on the mere strength and courage of the male; for such males are generally decorated with various ornaments, which often become more brilliant during the breeding-season, and which are sedulously displayed before the females. The males also endeavour to charm or excite their mates by love-notes, songs, and antics; and the courtship is, in many instances, a prolonged affair. Hence it is not probable that the females are indifferent to the charms of the opposite sex, or that they are invariably compelled to yield to the victorious males. It is more probable that the females are excited, either before or after the conflict, by certain males, and thus unconsciously prefer them. In the case of Tetrao umbellus, a good observer (23. 'Land and Water,' July 25, 1868, p. 14.) goes so far as to believe that the battles of the male "are all a sham, performed to show themselves to the greatest advantage before the admiring females who assemble around; for I have never been able to find a maimed hero, and seldom more than a broken feather." I shall have to recur to this subject, but I may here add that with the Tetrao cupido of the United States, about a score of males assemble at a particular spot, and, strutting about, make the whole air resound with their extraordinary noises. At the first answer from a female the males begin to fight furiously, and the weaker give way; but then, according to Audubon, both the victors and vanquished search for the female, so that the females must either then exert a choice, or the battle must be renewed. So, again, with one of the field-starlings of the United States (Sturnella ludoviciana) the males engage in fierce conflicts, "but at the sight of a female they all fly after her as if mad." (24. Audubon's 'Ornithological Biography;' on Tetrao cupido, vol. ii. p. 492; on the Sturnus, vol. ii. p. 219.)VOCAL AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.
With birds the voice serves to express various emotions, such as distress, fear, anger, triumph, or mere happiness. It is apparently sometimes used to excite terror, as in the case of the hissing noise made by some nestling-birds. Audubon (25. 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. v. p. 601.), relates that a night-heron (Ardea nycticorax, Linn.), which he kept tame, used to hide itself when a cat approached, and then "suddenly start up uttering one of the most frightful cries, apparently enjoying the cat's alarm and flight." The common domestic cock clucks to the hen, and the hen to her chickens, when a dainty morsel is found. The hen, when she has laid an egg, "repeats the same note very often, and concludes with the sixth above, which she holds for a longer time" (26. The Hon. Daines Barrington, 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1773, p. 252.); and thus she expresses her joy. Some social birds apparently call to each other for aid; and as they flit from tree to tree, the flock is kept together by chirp answering chirp. During the nocturnal migrations of geese and other water-fowl, sonorous clangs from the van may be heard in the darkness overhead, answered by clangs in the rear. Certain cries serve as danger signals, which, as the sportsman knows to his cost, are understood by the same species and by others. The domestic cock crows, and the humming-bird chirps, in triumph over a defeated rival. The true song, however, of most birds and various strange cries are chiefly uttered during the breeding- season, and serve as a charm, or merely as a call-note, to the other sex.
Naturalists are much divided with respect to the object of the singing of birds. Few more careful observers ever lived than Montagu, and he maintained that the "males of songbirds and of many others do not in general search for the female, but, on the contrary, their business in the spring is to perch on some conspicuous spot, breathing out their full and armorous notes, which, by instinct, the female knows, and repairs to the spot to choose her mate." (27. 'Ornithological Dictionary,' 1833, p. 475.) Mr. Jenner Weir informs me that this is certainly the case with the nightingale. Bechstein, who kept birds during his whole life, asserts, "that the female canary always chooses the best singer, and that in a state of nature the female finch selects that male out of a hundred whose notes please her most." (28. 'Naturgeschichte der Stubenvogel,' 1840, s. 4. Mr. Harrison Weir likewise writes to me:--"I am informed that the best singing males generally get a mate first, when they are bred in the same room.") There can be no doubt that birds closely attend to each other's song. Mr. Weir has told me of the case of a bullfinch which had been taught to pipe a German waltz, and who was so good a performer that he cost ten guineas; when this bird was first introduced into a room where other birds were kept and he began to sing, all the others, consisting of about twenty linnets and canaries, ranged themselves on the nearest side of their cages, and listened with the greatest interest to the new performer. Many naturalists believe that the singing of birds is almost exclusively "the effect of rivalry and emulation," and not for the sake of charming their mates. This was the opinion of Daines Barrington and White of Selborne, who both especially attended to this subject. (29. 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1773, p. 263. White's 'Natural History of Selborne,' 1825, vol. i. p. 246.) Barrington, however, admits that "superiority in song gives to birds an amazing ascendancy over others, as is well known to bird- catchers."
It is certain that there is an intense degree of rivalry between the males in their singing. Bird-fanciers match their birds to see which will sing longest; and I was told by Mr. Yarrell that a first-rate bird will sometimes sing till he drops down almost dead, or according to Bechstein (30. 'Naturgesch. der Stubenvogel,' 1840, s. 252.), quite dead from rupturing a vessel in the lungs. Whatever the cause may be, male birds, as I hear from Mr. Weir, often die suddenly during the season of song. That the habit of singing is sometimes quite independent of love is clear, for a sterile, hybrid canary-bird has been described (31. Mr. Bold, 'Zoologist,' 1843-44, p. 659.) as singing whilst viewing itself in a mirror, and then dashing at its own image; it likewise attacked with fury a female canary, when put into the same cage. The jealousy excited by the act of singing is constantly taken advantage of by bird-catchers; a male, in good song, is hidden and protected, whilst a stuffed bird, surrounded by limed twigs, is exposed to view. In this manner, as Mr. Weir informs me, a man has in the course of a single day caught fifty, and in one instance, seventy, male chaffinches. The power and inclination to sing differ so greatly with birds that although the price of an ordinary male chaffinch is only sixpence, Mr. Weir saw one bird for which the bird-catcher asked three pounds; the test of a really good singer being that it will continue to sing whilst the cage is swung round the owner's head.
That male birds should sing from emulation as well as for charming the female, is not at all incompatible; and it might have been expected that these two habits would have concurred, like those of display and pugnacity. Some authors, however, argue that the song of the male cannot serve to charm the female, because the females of some few species, such as of the canary, robin, lark, and bullfinch, especially when in a state of widowhood, as Bechstein remarks, pour forth fairly melodious strains. In some of these cases the habit of singing may be in part attributed to the females having been highly fed and confined (32. D. Barrington, 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1773, p. 262. Bechstein, 'Stubenvogel,' 1840, s. 4.), for this disturbs all the functions connected with the reproduction of the species. Many instances have already been given of the partial transference of secondary masculine characters to the female, so that it is not at all surprising that the females of some species should possess the power of song. It has also been argued, that the song of the male cannot serve as a charm, because the males of certain species, for instance of the robin, sing during the autumn. (33. This is likewise the case with the water-ouzel; see Mr. Hepburn in the 'Zoologist,' 1845-46, p. 1068.) But nothing is more common than for animals to take pleasure in practising whatever instinct they follow at other times for some real good. How often do we see birds which fly easily, gliding and sailing through the air obviously for pleasure? The cat plays with the captured mouse, and the cormorant with the captured fish. The weaver-bird (Ploceus), when confined in a cage, amuses itself by neatly weaving blades of grass between the wires of its cage. Birds which habitually fight during the breeding-season are generally ready to fight at all times; and the males of the capercailzie sometimes hold their Balzen or leks at the usual place of assemblage during the autumn. (34. L. Lloyd, 'Game Birds of Sweden,' 1867, p. 25.) Hence it is not at all surprising that male birds should continue singing for their own amusement after the season for courtship is over.
As shewn in a previous chapter, singing is to a certain extent an art, and is much improved by practice. Birds can be taught various tunes, and even the unmelodious sparrow has learnt to sing like a linnet. They acquire the song of their foster parents (35. Barrington, ibid. p. 264, Bechstein, ibid. s. 5.), and sometimes that of their neighbours. (36. Dureau de la Malle gives a curious instance ('Annales des Sc. Nat.' 3rd series, Zoolog., tom. x. p. 118) of some wild blackbirds in his garden in Paris, which naturally learnt a republican air from a caged bird.) All the common songsters belong to the Order of Insessores, and their vocal organs are much more complex than those of most other birds; yet it is a singular fact that some of the Insessores, such as ravens, crows, and magpies, possess the proper apparatus (37. Bishop, in 'Todd's Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology,' vol. iv. p. 1496.), though they never sing, and do not naturally modulate their voices to any great extent. Hunter asserts (38. As stated by Barrington in 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1773, p. 262.) that with the true songsters the muscles of the larynx are stronger in the males than in the females; but with this slight exception there is no difference in the vocal organs of the two sexes, although the males of most species sing so much better and more continuously than the females.
It is remarkable that only small birds properly sing. The Australian genus Menura, however, must be excepted; for the Menura Alberti, which is about the size of a halfgrown turkey, not only mocks other birds, but "its own whistle is exceedingly beautiful and varied." The males congregate and form "corroborying places," where they sing, raising and spreading their tails like peacocks, and drooping their wings. (39. Gould, 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. 1865, pp. 308-310. See also Mr. T.W. Wood in the 'Student,' April 1870, p. 125.) It is also remarkable that birds which sing well are rarely decorated with brilliant colours or other ornaments. Of our British birds, excepting the bullfinch and goldfinch, the best songsters are plain-coloured. The kingfisher, beeeater, roller, hoopoe, woodpeckers, etc., utter harsh cries; and the brilliant birds of the tropics are hardly ever songsters. (40. See remarks to this effect in Gould's 'Introduction to the Trochilidae,' 1861, p. 22.) Hence bright colours and the power of song seem to replace each other. We can perceive that if the plumage did not vary in brightness, or if bright colours were dangerous to the species, other means would be employed to charm the females; and melody of voice offers one such means.[Fig. 39. Tetrao cupido: male. (T.W. Wood.)]
In some birds the vocal organs differ greatly in the two sexes. In the Tetrao cupido (Fig. 39) the male has two bare, orange-coloured sacks, one on each side of the neck; and these are largely inflated when the male, during the breeding-season, makes his curious hollow sound, audible at a great distance. Audubon proved that the sound was intimately connected with this apparatus (which reminds us of the air-sacks on each side of the mouth of certain male frogs), for he found that the sound was much diminished when one of the sacks of a tame bird was pricked, and when both were pricked it was altogether stopped. The female has "a somewhat similar, though smaller naked space of skin on the neck; but this is not capable of inflation." (41. 'The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada,' by Major W. Ross King, 1866, pp. 144-146. Mr. T.W. Wood gives in the 'Student' (April 1870, p. 116) an excellent account of the attitude and habits of this bird during its courtship. He states that the ear-tufts or neck-plumes are erected, so that they meet over the crown of the head. See his drawing, Fig. 39.) The male of another kind of grouse (Tetrao urophasianus), whilst courting the female, has his "bare yellow oesophagus inflated to a prodigious size, fully half as large as the body"; and he then utters various grating, deep, hollow tones. With his neck-feathers erect, his wings lowered, and buzzing on the ground, and his long pointed tail spread out like a fan, he displays a variety of grotesque attitudes. The oesophagus of the female is not in any way remarkable. (42. Richardson, 'Fauna Bor. American: Birds,' 1831, p. 359. Audubon, ibid. vol. iv. p. 507.)[Fig. 40. The Umbrella-bird or Cephalopterus ornatus, male (from Brehm).]
It seems now well made out that the great throat pouch of the European male bustard (Otis tarda), and of at least four other species, does not, as was formerly supposed, serve to hold water, but is connected with the utterance during the breeding-season of a peculiar sound resembling "oak." (43. The following papers have been lately written on this subject: Prof. A. Newton, in the 'Ibis,' 1862, p. 107; Dr. Cullen, ibid. 1865, p. 145; Mr. Flower, in 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1865, p. 747; and Dr. Murie, in 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1868, p. 471. In this latter paper an excellent figure is given of the male Australian Bustard in full display with the sack distended. It is a singular fact that the sack is not developed in all the males of the same species.) A crow-like bird inhabiting South America (see Cephalopterus ornatus, Fig. 40) is called the umbrella-bird, from its immense top knot, formed of bare white quills surmounted by dark-blue plumes, which it can elevate into a great dome no less than five inches in diameter, covering the whole head. This bird has on its neck a long, thin, cylindrical fleshy appendage, which is thickly clothed with scalelike blue feathers. It probably serves in part as an ornament, but likewise as a resounding apparatus; for Mr. Bates found that it is connected "with an unusual development of the trachea and vocal organs." It is dilated when the bird utters its singularly deep, loud and long sustained fluty note. The head- crest and neck-appendage are rudimentary in the female. (44. Bates, 'The Naturalist on the Amazons,' 1863, vol. ii. p. 284; Wallace, in 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1850, p. 206. A new species, with a still larger neckappendage (C. penduliger), has lately been discovered, see 'Ibis,' vol. i. p. 457.)
The vocal organs of various web-footed and wading birds are extraordinarily complex, and differ to a certain extent in the two sexes. In some cases the trachea is convoluted, like a French horn, and is deeply embedded in the sternum. In the wild swan (Cygnus ferus) it is more deeply embedded in the adult male than in the adult female or young male. In the male Merganser the enlarged portion of the trachea is furnished with an additional pair of muscles. (45. Bishop, in Todd's 'Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology,' vol. iv. p. 1499.) In one of the ducks, however, namely Anas punctata, the bony enlargement is only a little more developed in the male than in the female. (46. Prof. Newton, 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1871, p. 651.) But the meaning of these differences in the trachea of the two sexes of the Anatidae is not understood; for the male is not always the more vociferous; thus with the common duck, the male hisses, whilst the female utters a loud quack. (47. The spoonbill (Platalea) has its trachea convoluted into a figure of eight, and yet this bird (Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 763) is mute; but Mr. Blyth informs me that the convolutions are not constantly present, so that perhaps they are now tending towards abortion.) In both sexes of one of the cranes (Grus virgo) the trachea penetrates the sternum, but presents "certain sexual modifications." In the male of the black stork there is also a well-marked sexual difference in the length and curvature of the bronchi. (48. 'Elements of Comparative Anatomy,' by R. Wagner, Eng. translat. 1845, p. 111. With respect to the swan, as given above, Yarrell's 'History of British Birds,' 2nd edition, 1845, vol. iii. p. 193.) Highly important structures have, therefore, in these cases been modified according to sex.
It is often difficult to conjecture whether the many strange cries and notes uttered by male birds during the breeding-season serve as a charm or merely as a call to the female. The soft cooing of the turtle-dove and of many pigeons, it may be presumed, pleases the female. When the female of the wild turkey utters her call in the morning, the male answers by a note which differs from the gobbling noise made, when with erected feathers, rustling wings and distended wattles, he puffs and struts before her. (49. C.L. Bonaparte, quoted in the 'Naturalist Library: Birds,' vol. xiv. p. 126.) The spel of the black-cock certainly serves as a call to the female, for it has been known to bring four or five females from a distance to a male under confinement; but as the black-cock continues his spel for hours during successive days, and in the case of the capercailzie "with an agony of passion," we are led to suppose that the females which are present are thus charmed. (50. L. Lloyd, 'The Game Birds of Sweden,' etc., 1867, pp. 22, 81.) The voice of the common rook is known to alter during the breeding-season, and is therefore in some way sexual. (51. Jenner, 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1824, p. 20.) But what shall we say about the harsh screams of, for instance, some kinds of macaws; have these birds as bad taste for musical sounds as they apparently have for colour, judging by the inharmonious contrast of their bright yellow and blue plumage? It is indeed possible that without any advantage being thus gained, the loud voices of many male birds may be the result of the inherited effects of the continued use of their vocal organs when excited by the strong passions of love, jealousy and rage; but to this point we shall recur when we treat of quadrupeds.
We have as yet spoken only of the voice, but the males of various birds practise, during their courtship, what may be called instrumental music. Peacocks and Birds of Paradise rattle their quills together. Turkey-cocks scrape their wings against the ground, and some kinds of grouse thus produce a buzzing sound. Another North American grouse, the Tetrao umbellus, when with his tail erect, his ruffs displayed, "he shows off his finery to the females, who lie hid in the neighbourhood," drums by rapidly striking his wings together above his back, according to Mr. R. Haymond, and not, as Audubon thought, by striking them against his sides. The sound thus produced is compared by some to distant thunder, and by others to the quick roll of a drum. The female never drums, "but flies directly to the place where the male is thus engaged." The male of the Kalij-pheasant, in the Himalayas, often makes a singular drumming noise with his wings, not unlike the sound produced by shaking a stiff piece of cloth." On the west coast of Africa the little black-weavers (Ploceus?) congregate in a small party on the bushes round a small open space, and sing and glide through the air with quivering wings, "which make a rapid whirring sound like a child's rattle." One bird after another thus performs for hours together, but only during the courting-season. At this season, and at no other time, the males of certain night-jars (Caprimulgus) make a strange booming noise with their wings. The various species of woodpeckers strike a sonorous branch with their beaks, with so rapid a vibratory movement that "the head appears to be in two places at once." The sound thus produced is audible at a considerable distance but cannot be described; and I feel sure that its source would never be conjectured by any one hearing it for the first time. As this jarring sound is made chiefly during the breeding-season, it has been considered as a love-song; but it is perhaps more strictly a love- call. The female, when driven from her nest, has been observed thus to call her mate, who answered in the same manner and soon appeared. Lastly, the male hoopoe (Upupa epops) combines vocal and instrumental music; for during the breeding-season this bird, as Mr. Swinhoe observed, first draws in air, and then taps the end of its beak perpendicularly down against a stone or the trunk of a tree, "when the breath being forced down the tubular bill produces the correct sound." If the beak is not thus struck against some object, the sound is quite different. Air is at the same time swallowed, and the oesophagus thus becomes much swollen; and this probably acts as a resonator, not only with the hoopoe, but with pigeons and other birds. (52. For the foregoing facts see, on Birds of Paradise, Brehm, 'Thierleben,' Band iii. s. 325. On Grouse, Richardson, 'Fauna Bor. Americ.: Birds,' pp. 343 and 359; Major W. Ross King, 'The Sportsman in Canada,' 1866, p. 156; Mr. Haymond, in Prof. Cox's 'Geol. Survey of Indiana,' p. 227; Audubon, 'American Ornitholog. Biograph.' vol. i. p. 216. On the Kalij-pheasant, Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 533. On the Weavers, Livingstone's 'Expedition to the Zambesi,' 1865, p. 425. On Woodpeckers, Macgillivray, 'Hist. of British Birds,' vol. iii. 1840, pp. 84, 88, 89, and 95. On the Hoopoe, Mr. Swinhoe, in 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' June 23, 1863 and 1871, p. 348. On the Night-jar, Audubon, ibid. vol. ii. p. 255, and 'American Naturalist,' 1873, p. 672. The English Night-jar likewise makes in the spring a curious noise during its rapid flight.)[Fig. 41. Outer tail-feather of Scolopax gallinago (from 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1858). Fig. 42. Outer tail-feather of Scolopax frenata. Fig. 43. Outer tail-feather of Scolopax javensis.]
In the foregoing cases sounds are made by the aid of structures already present and otherwise necessary; but in the following cases certain feathers have been specially modified for the express purpose of producing sounds. The drumming, bleating, neighing, or thundering noise (as expressed by different observers) made by the common snipe (Scolopax gallinago) must have surprised every one who has ever heard it. This bird, during the pairing-season, flies to "perhaps a thousand feet in height," and after zigzagging about for a time descends to the earth in a curved line, with outspread tail and quivering pinions, and surprising velocity. The sound is emitted only during this rapid descent. No one was able to explain the cause until M. Meves observed that on each side of the tail the outer feathers are peculiarly formed (Fig. 41), having a stiff sabre-shaped shaft with the oblique barbs of unusual length, the outer webs being strongly bound together. He found that by blowing on these feathers, or by fastening them to a long thin stick and waving them rapidly through the air, he could reproduce the drumming noise made by the living bird. Both sexes are furnished with these feathers, but they are generally larger in the male than in the female, and emit a deeper note. In some species, as in S. frenata (Fig. 42), four feathers, and in S. javensis (Fig. 43), no less than eight on each side of the tail are greatly modified. Different tones are emitted by the feathers of the different species when waved through the air; and the Scolopax Wilsonii of the United States makes a switching noise whilst descending rapidly to the earth. (53. See M. Meves' interesting paper in 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1858, p. 199. For the habits of the snipe, Macgillivray, 'History of British Birds,' vol. iv. p. 371. For the American snipe, Capt. Blakiston, 'Ibis,' vol. v. 1863, p. 131.)
[Fig. 44. Primary wing-feather of a Humming-bird, the Selasphorus platycercus (from a sketch by Mr. Salvin). Upper figure, that of male; lower figure, corresponding feather of female.]
In the male of the Chamaepetes unicolor (a large gallinaceous bird of America), the first primary wing-feather is arched towards the tip and is much more attenuated than in the female. In an allied bird, the Penelope nigra, Mr. Salvin observed a male, which, whilst it flew downwards "with outstretched wings, gave forth a kind of crashing rushing noise," like the falling of a tree. (54. Mr. Salvin, in 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1867, p. 160. I am much indebted to this distinguished ornithologist for sketches of the feathers of the Chamaepetes, and for other information.) The male alone of one of the Indian bustards (Sypheotides auritus) has its primary wing-feathers greatly acuminated; and the male of an allied species is known to make a humming noise whilst courting the female. (55. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. pp. 618, 621.) In a widely different group of birds, namely Humming-birds, the males alone of certain kinds have either the shafts of their primary wing-feathers broadly dilated, or the webs abruptly excised towards the extremity. The male, for instance, of Selasphorus platycercus, when adult, has the first primary wing-feather (Fig. 44), thus excised. Whilst flying from flower to flower he makes "a shrill, almost whistling noise" (56. Gould, 'Introduction to the Trochilidae,' 1861, p. 49. Salvin, 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1867, p. 160.); but it did not appear to Mr. Salvin that the noise was intentionally made.
[Fig. 45. Secondary wing-feathers of Pipra deliciosa (from Mr. Sclater, in 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1860). The three upper feathers, a, b, c, from the male; the three lower corresponding feathers, d, e, f, from the female. a and d, fifth secondary wing-feather of male and female, upper surface. b and e, sixth secondary, upper surface. c and f, seventh secondary, lower surface.]
Lastly, in several species of a sub-genus of Pipra or Manakin, the males, as described by Mr. Sclater, have their SECONDARY wing-feathers modified in a still more remarkable manner. In the brilliantly-coloured P. deliciosa the first three secondaries are thickstemmed and curved towards the body; in the fourth and fifth (Fig. 45, a) the change is greater; and in the sixth and seventh (b, c) the shaft "is thickened to an extraordinary degree, forming a solid horny lump." The barbs also are greatly changed in shape, in comparison with the corresponding feathers (d, e, f) in the female. Even the bones of the wing, which support these singular feathers in the male, are said by Mr. Fraser to be much thickened. These little birds make an extraordinary noise, the first "sharp note being not unlike the crack of a whip." (57. Sclater, in 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1860, p. 90, and in 'Ibis,' vol. iv. 1862, p. 175. Also Salvin, in 'Ibis,' 1860, p. 37.)
The diversity of the sounds, both vocal and instrumental, made by the males of many birds during the breeding-season, and the diversity of the means for producing such sounds, are highly remarkable. We thus gain a high idea of their importance for sexual purposes, and are reminded of the conclusion arrived at as to insects. It is not difficult to imagine the steps by which the notes of a bird, primarily used as a mere call or for some other purpose, might have been improved into a melodious love song. In the case of the modified feathers, by which the drumming, whistling, or roaring noises are produced, we know that some birds during their courtship flutter, shake, or rattle their unmodified feathers together; and if the females were led to select the best performers, the males which possessed the strongest or thickest, or most attenuated feathers, situated on any part of the body, would be the most successful; and thus by slow degrees the feathers might be modified to almost any extent. The females, of course, would not notice each slight successive alteration in shape, but only the sounds thus produced. It is a curious fact that in the same class of animals, sounds so different as the drumming of the snipe's tail, the tapping of the woodpecker's beak, the harsh trumpet-like cry of certain waterfowl, the cooing of the turtle-dove, and the song of the nightingale, should all be pleasing to the females of the several species. But we must not judge of the tastes of distinct species by a uniform standard; nor must we judge by the standard of man's taste. Even with man, we should remember what discordant noises, the beating of tom-toms and the shrill notes of reeds, please the ears of savages. Sir S. Baker remarks (58. 'The Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia,' 1867, p. 203.), that "as the stomach of the Arab prefers the raw meat and reeking liver taken hot from the animal, so does his ear prefer his equally coarse and discordant music to all other."LOVE ANTICS AND DANCES.
The curious love gestures of some birds have already been incidentally noticed; so that little need here be added. In Northern America large numbers of a grouse, the Tetrao phasianellus, meet every morning during the breeding-season on a selected level spot, and here they run round and round in a circle of about fifteen or twenty feet in diameter, so that the ground is worn quite bare, like a fairy-ring. In these Partridge-dances, as they are called by the hunters, the birds assume the strangest attitudes, and run round, some to the left and some to the right. Audubon describes the males of a heron (Ardea herodias) as walking about on their long legs with great dignity before the females, bidding defiance to their rivals. With one of the disgusting carrion-vultures (Cathartes jota) the same naturalist states that "the gesticulations and parade of the males at the beginning of the love-season are extremely ludicrous." Certain birds perform their love-antics on the wing, as we have seen with the black African weaver, instead of on the ground. During the spring our little white-throat (Sylvia cinerea) often rises a few feet or yards in the air above some bush, and "flutters with a fitful and fantastic motion, singing all the while, and then drops to its perch." The great English bustard throws himself into indescribably odd attitudes whilst courting the female, as has been figured by Wolf. An allied Indian bustard (Otis bengalensis) at such times "rises perpendicularly into the air with a hurried flapping of his wings, raising his crest and puffing out the feathers of his neck and breast, and then drops to the ground;" he repeats this manoeuvre several times, at the same time humming in a peculiar tone. Such females as happen to be near "obey this saltatory summons," and when they approach he trails his wings and spreads his tail like a turkeycock. (59. For Tetrao phasianellus, see Richardson, 'Fauna, Bor. America,' p. 361, and for further particulars Capt. Blakiston, 'Ibis,' 1863, p. 125. For the Cathartes and Ardea, Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. ii. p. 51, and vol. iii. p. 89. On the Whitethroat, Macgillivray, 'History of British Birds,' vol. ii. p. 354. On the Indian Bustard, Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 618.)[Fig. 46. Bower-bird, Chlamydera maculata, with bower (from Brehm).]
But the most curious case is afforded by three allied genera of Australian birds, the famous Bower-birds,--no doubt the co-descendants of some ancient species which first acquired the strange instinct of constructing bowers for performing their love-antics. The bowers (Fig. 46), which, as we shall hereafter see, are decorated with feathers, shells, bones, and leaves, are built on the ground for the sole purpose of courtship, for their nests are formed in trees. Both sexes assist in the erection of the bowers, but the male is the principal workman. So strong is this instinct that it is practised under confinement, and Mr. Strange has described (60. Gould, 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. pp. 444, 449, 455. The bower of the Satin Bower-bird may be seen in the Zoological Society's Gardens, Regent's Park.) the habits of some Satin Bower-birds which he kept in an aviary in New South Wales. "At times the male will chase the female all over the aviary, then go to the bower, pick up a gay feather or a large leaf, utter a curious kind of note, set all his feathers erect, run round the bower and become so excited that his eyes appear ready to start from his bead; he continues opening first one wing then the other, uttering a low, whistling note, and, like the domestic cock, seems to be picking up something from the ground, until at last the female goes gently towards him." Captain Stokes has described the habits and "play-houses" of another species, the Great Bowerbird, which was seen "amusing itself by flying backwards and forwards, taking a shell alternately from each side, and carrying it through the archway in its mouth." These curious structures, formed solely as halls of assemblage, where both sexes amuse themselves and pay their court, must cost the birds much labour. The bower, for instance, of the Fawn-breasted species, is nearly four feet in length, eighteen inches in height, and is raised on a thick platform of sticks.DECORATION.
I will first discuss the cases in which the males are ornamented either exclusively or in a much higher degree than the females, and in a succeeding chapter those in which both sexes are equally ornamented, and finally the rare cases in which the female is somewhat more brightly- coloured than the male. As with the artificial ornaments used by savage and civilised men, so with the natural ornaments of birds, the head is the chief seat of decoration. (61. See remarks to this effect, on the 'Feeling of Beauty among Animals,' by Mr. J. Shaw, in the 'Athenaeum,' Nov. 24th, 1866, p. 681.) The ornaments, as mentioned at the commencement of this chapter, are wonderfully diversified. The plumes on the front or back of the head consist of variously-shaped feathers, sometimes capable of erection or expansion, by which their beautiful colours are fully displayed. Elegant eartufts (Fig. 39) are occasionally present. The head is sometimes covered with velvety down, as with the pheasant; or is naked and vividly coloured. The throat, also, is sometimes ornamented with a beard, wattles, or caruncles. Such appendages are generally brightly- coloured, and no doubt serve as ornaments, though not always ornamental in our eyes; for whilst the male is in the act of courting the female, they often swell and assume vivid tints, as in the male turkey. At such times the fleshy appendages about the head of the male Tragopan pheasant (Ceriornis Temminckii) swell into a large lappet on the throat and into two horns, one on each side of the splendid top-knot; and these are then coloured of the most intense blue which I have ever beheld. (62. See Dr. Murie's account with coloured figures in 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1872, p. 730.) The African hornbill (Bucorax abyssinicus) inflates the scarlet bladder-like wattle on its neck, and with its wings drooping and tail expanded "makes quite a grand appearance." (63. Mr. Monteiro, 'Ibis,' vol. iv. 1862, p. 339.) Even the iris of the eye is sometimes more brightly-coloured in the male than in the female; and this is frequently the case with the beak, for instance, in our common blackbird. In Buceros corrugatus, the whole beak and immense casque are coloured more conspicuously in the male than in the female; and "the oblique grooves upon the sides of the lower mandible are peculiar to the male sex." (64. 'Land and Water,' 1868, p. 217.)
The head, again, often supports fleshy appendages, filaments, and solid protuberances. These, if not common to both sexes, are always confined to the males. The solid protuberances have been described in detail by Dr. W. Marshall (65. 'Ueber die Schadelhocker,' etc., 'Niederland. Archiv. fur Zoologie,' B. I. Heft 2, 1872.), who shews that they are formed either of cancellated bone coated with skin, or of dermal and other tissues. With mammals true horns are always supported on the frontal bones, but with birds various bones have been modified for this purpose; and in species of the same group the protuberances may have cores of bone, or be quite destitute of them, with intermediate gradations connecting these two extremes. Hence, as Dr. Marshall justly remarks, variations of the most different kinds have served for the development through sexual selection of these ornamental appendages. Elongated feathers or plumes spring from almost every part of the body. The feathers on the throat and breast are sometimes developed into beautiful ruffs and collars. The tail-feathers are frequently increased in length; as we see in the tail-coverts of the peacock, and in the tail itself of the Argus pheasant. With the peacock even the bones of the tail have been modified to support the heavy tail- coverts. (66. Dr. W. Marshall, 'Uber den Vogelschwanz,' ibid. B. I. Heft 2, 1872.) The body of the Argus is not larger than that of a fowl; yet the length from the end of the beak to the extremity of the tail is no less than five feet three inches (67. Jardine's 'Naturalist Library: Birds,' vol. xiv. p. 166.), and that of the beautifully ocellated secondary wing- feathers nearly three feet. In a small African night-jar (Cosmetornis vexillarius) one of the primary wing-feathers, during the breeding-season, attains a length of twenty-six inches, whilst the bird itself is only ten inches in length. In another closelyallied genus of night-jars, the shafts of the elongated wing-feathers are naked, except at the extremity, where there is a disc. (68. Sclater, in the 'Ibis,' vol. vi. 1864, p. 114; Livingstone, 'Expedition to the Zambesi,' 1865, p. 66.) Again, in another genus of nightjars, the tail-feathers are even still more prodigiously developed. In general the feathers of the tail are more often elongated than those of the wings, as any great elongation of the latter impedes flight. We thus see that in closely-allied birds ornaments of the same kind have been gained by the males through the development of widely different feathers.
It is a curious fact that the feathers of species belonging to very distinct groups have been modified in almost exactly the same peculiar manner. Thus the wing-feathers in one of the above-mentioned night-jars are bare along the shaft, and terminate in a disc; or are, as they are sometimes called, spoon or racket-shaped. Feathers of this kind occur in the tail of a motmot (Eumomota superciliaris), of a king-fisher, finch, humming-bird, parrot, several Indian drongos (Dicrurus and Edolius, in one of which the disc stands vertically), and in the tail of certain birds of paradise. In these latter birds, similar feathers, beautifully ocellated, ornament the head, as is likewise the case with some gallinaceous birds. In an Indian bustard (Sypheotides auritus) the feathers forming the ear- tufts, which are about four inches in length, also terminate in discs. (69. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 620.) It is a most singular fact that the motmots, as Mr. Salvin has clearly shewn (70. 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1873, p. 429.), give to their tail feathers the racket-shape by biting off the barbs, and, further, that this continued mutilation has produced a certain amount of inherited effect.[Fig. 47. Paradisea Papuana (T.W. Wood).]
Again, the barbs of the feathers in various widely-distinct birds are filamentous or plumose, as with some herons, ibises, birds of paradise, and Gallinaceae. In other cases the barbs disappear, leaving the shafts bare from end to end; and these in the tail of the Paradisea apoda attain a length of thirty-four inches (71. Wallace, in 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History,' vol. xx. 1857, p. 416, and in his 'Malay Archipelago,' vol. ii. 1869, p. 390.): in P. Papuana (Fig. 47) they are much shorter and thin. Smaller feathers when thus denuded appear like bristles, as on the breast of the turkey-cock. As any fleeting fashion in dress comes to be admired by man, so with birds a change of almost any kind in the structure or colouring of the feathers in the male appears to have been admired by the female. The fact of the feathers in widely distinct groups having been modified in an analogous manner no doubt depends primarily on all the feathers having nearly the same structure and manner of development, and consequently tending to vary in the same manner. We often see a tendency to analogous variability in the plumage of our domestic breeds belonging to distinct species. Thus top-knots have appeared in several species. In an extinct variety of the turkey, the top-knot consisted of bare quills surmounted with plumes of down, so that they somewhat resembled the racket- shaped feathers above described. In certain breeds of the pigeon and fowl the feathers are plumose, with some tendency in the shafts to be naked. In the Sebastopol goose the scapular feathers are greatly elongated, curled, or even spirally twisted, with the margins plumose. (72. See my work on 'The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. i. pp. 289, 293.)
In regard to colour, hardly anything need here be said, for every one knows how splendid are the tints of many birds, and how harmoniously they are combined. The colours are often metallic and iridescent. Circular spots are sometimes surrounded by one or more differently shaded zones, and are thus converted into ocelli. Nor need much be said on the wonderful difference between the sexes of many birds. The common peacock offers a striking instance. Female birds of paradise are obscurely coloured and destitute of all ornaments, whilst the males are probably the most highly decorated of all birds, and in so many different ways that they must be seen to be appreciated. The elongated and goldenorange plumes which spring from beneath the wings of the Paradisea apoda, when vertically erected and made to vibrate, are described as forming a sort of halo, in the centre of which the head "looks like a little emerald sun with its rays formed by the two plumes." (73. Quoted from M. de Lafresnaye in 'Annals and Mag. of Natural History,' vol. xiii. 1854, p. 157: see also Mr. Wallace's much fuller account in vol. xx. 1857, p. 412, and in his 'Malay Archipelago.'S) In another most beautiful species the head is bald, "and of a rich cobalt blue, crossed by several lines of black velvety feathers." (74. Wallace, 'The Malay Archipelago,' vol. ii. 1869, p. 405.)[Fig. 48. Lophornis ornatus, male and female (from Brehm). Fig. 49. Spathura underwoodi, male and female (from Brehm).]
Male humming-birds (Figs. 48 and 49) almost vie with birds of paradise in their beauty, as every one will admit who has seen Mr. Gould's splendid volumes, or his rich collection. It is very remarkable in how many different ways these birds are ornamented. Almost every part of their plumage has been taken advantage of, and modified; and the modifications have been carried, as Mr. Gould shewed me, to a wonderful extreme in some species belonging to nearly every sub-group. Such cases are curiously like those which we see in our fancy breeds, reared by man for the sake of ornament; certain individuals originally varied in one character, and other individuals of the same species in other characters; and these have been seized on by man and much augmented--as shewn by the tail of the fantail- pigeon, the hood of the jacobin, the beak and wattle of the carrier, and so forth. The sole difference between these cases is that in the one, the result is due to man's selection, whilst in the other, as with humming- birds, birds of paradise, etc., it is due to the selection by the females of the more beautiful males. I will mention only one other bird, remarkable from the extreme contrast in colour between the sexes, namely the famous bell-bird (Chasmorhynchus niveus) of S. America, the note of which can be distinguished at the distance of nearly three miles, and astonishes every one when first hearing it. The male is pure white, whilst the female is dusky-green; and white is a very rare colour in terrestrial species of moderate size and inoffensive habits. The male, also, as described by Waterton, has a spiral tube, nearly three inches in length, which rises from the base of the beak. It is jet-black, dotted over with minute downy feathers. This tube can be inflated with air, through a communication with the palate; and when not inflated hangs down on one side. The genus consists of four species, the males of which are very distinct, whilst the females, as described by Mr. Sclater in a very interesting paper, closely resemble each other, thus offering an excellent instance of the common rule that within the same group the males differ much more from each other than do the females. In a second species (C. nudicollis) the male is likewise snow-white, with the exception of a large space of naked skin on the throat and round the eyes, which during the breeding-season is of a fine green colour. In a third species (C. tricarunculatus) the head and neck alone of the male are white, the rest of the body being chestnut-brown, and the male of this species is provided with three filamentous projections half as long as the body--one rising from the base of the beak, and the two others from the corners of the mouth. (75. Mr. Sclater, 'Intellectual Observer,' Jan. 1867. Waterton's 'Wanderings,' p. 118. See also Mr. Salvin's interesting paper, with a plate, in the 'Ibis,' 1865, p. 90.)
The coloured plumage and certain other ornaments of the adult males are either retained for life, or are periodically renewed during the summer and breeding-season. At this same season the beak and naked skin about the head frequently change colour, as with some herons, ibises, gulls, one of the bell-birds just noticed, etc. In the white ibis, the cheeks, the inflatable skin of the throat, and the basal portion of the beak then become crimson. (76. 'Land and Water,' 1867, p. 394.) In one of the rails, Gallicrex cristatus, a large red caruncle is developed during this period on the head of the male. So it is with a thin horny crest on the beak of one of the pelicans, P. erythrorhynchus; for, after the breeding- season, these horny crests are shed, like horns from the heads of stags, and the shore of an island in a lake in Nevada was found covered with these curious exuviae. (77. Mr. D.G. Elliot, in 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1869, p. 589.)
Changes of colour in the plumage according to the season depend, firstly on a double annual moult, secondly on an actual change of colour in the feathers themselves, and thirdly on their dull-coloured margins being periodically shed, or on these three processes more or less combined. The shedding of the deciduary margins may be compared with the shedding of their down by very young birds; for the down in most cases arises from the summits of the first true feathers. (78. Nitzsch's 'Pterylography,' edited by P.L. Sclater, Ray Society, 1867, p. 14.)
With respect to the birds which annually undergo a double moult, there are, firstly, some kinds, for instance snipes, swallow-plovers (Glareolae), and curlews, in which the two sexes resemble each other, and do not change colour at any season. I do not know whether the winter plumage is thicker and warmer than the summer plumage, but warmth seems the most probable end attained of a double moult, where there is no change of colour. Secondly, there are birds, for instance, certain species of Totanus and other Grallatores, the sexes of which resemble each other, but in which the summer and winter plumage differ slightly in colour. The difference, however, in these cases is so small that it can hardly be an advantage to them; and it may, perhaps, be attributed to the direct action of the different conditions to which the birds are exposed during the two seasons. Thirdly, there are many other birds the sexes of which are alike, but which are widely different in their summer and winter plumage. Fourthly, there are birds the sexes of which differ from each other in colour; but the females, though moulting twice, retain the same colours throughout the year, whilst the males undergo a change of colour, sometimes a great one, as with certain bustards. Fifthly and lastly, there are birds the sexes of which differ from each other in both their summer and winter plumage; but the male undergoes a greater amount of change at each recurrent season than the female--of which the ruff (Machetes pugnax) offers a good instance.
With respect to the cause or purpose of the differences in colour between the summer and winter plumage, this may in some instances, as with the ptarmigan (79. The brown mottled summer plumage of the ptarmigan is of as much importance to it, as a protection, as the white winter plumage; for in Scandinavia during the spring, when the snow has disappeared, this bird is known to suffer greatly from birds of prey, before it has acquired its summer dress: see Wilhelm von Wright, in Lloyd, 'Game Birds of Sweden,' 1867, p. 125.), serve during both seasons as a protection. When the difference between the two plumages is slight it may perhaps be attributed, as already remarked, to the direct action of the conditions of life. But with many birds there can hardly be a doubt that the summer plumage is ornamental, even when both sexes are alike. We may conclude that this is the case with many herons, egrets, etc., for they acquire their beautiful plumes only during the breeding-season. Moreover, such plumes, top-knots, etc., though possessed by both sexes, are occasionally a little more developed in the male than in the female; and they resemble the plumes and ornaments possessed by the males alone of other birds. It is also known that confinement, by affecting the reproductive system of male birds, frequently checks the development of their secondary sexual characters, but has no immediate influence on any other characters; and I am informed by Mr. Bartlett that eight or nine specimens of the Knot (Tringa canutus) retained their unadorned winter plumage in the Zoological Gardens throughout the year, from which fact we may infer that the summer plumage, though common to both sexes, partakes of the nature of the exclusively masculine plumage of many other birds. (80. In regard to the previous statements on moulting, see, on snipes, etc., Macgillivray, 'Hist. Brit. Birds,' vol. iv. p. 371; on Glareolae, curlews, and bustards, Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. pp. 615, 630, 683; on Totanus, ibid. p. 700; on the plumes of herons, ibid. p. 738, and Macgillivray, vol. iv. pp. 435 and 444, and Mr. Stafford Allen, in the 'Ibis,' vol. v. 1863, p. 33.)
From the foregoing facts, more especially from neither sex of certain birds changing colour during either annual moult, or changing so slightly that the change can hardly be of any service to them, and from the females of other species moulting twice yet retaining the same colours throughout the year, we may conclude that the habit of annually moulting twice has not been acquired in order that the male should assume an ornamental character during the breeding-season; but that the double moult, having been originally acquired for some distinct purpose, has subsequently been taken advantage of in certain cases for gaining a nuptial plumage.
It appears at first sight a surprising circumstance that some closely- allied species should regularly undergo a double annual moult, and others only a single one. The ptarmigan, for instance, moults twice or even thrice in the year, and the blackcock only once: some of the splendidly coloured honey-suckers (Nectariniae) of India and some sub-genera of obscurely coloured pipits (Anthus) have a double, whilst others have only a single annual moult. (81. On the moulting of the ptarmigan, see Gould's 'Birds of Great Britain.' On the honey-suckers, Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. i. pp. 359, 365, 369. On the moulting of Anthus, see Blyth, in 'Ibis,' 1867, p. 32.) But the gradations in the manner of moulting, which are known to occur with various birds, shew us how species, or whole groups, might have originally acquired their double annual moult, or having once gained the habit, have again lost it. With certain bustards and plovers the vernal moult is far from complete, some feathers being renewed, and some changed in colour. There is also reason to believe that with certain bustards and rail-like birds, which properly undergo a double moult, some of the older males retain their nuptial plumage throughout the year. A few highly modified feathers may merely be added during the spring to the plumage, as occurs with the disc-formed tail-feathers of certain drongos (Bhringa) in India, and with the elongated feathers on the back, neck, and crest of certain herons. By such steps as these, the vernal moult might be rendered more and more complete, until a perfect double moult was acquired. Some of the birds of paradise retain their nuptial feathers throughout the year, and thus have only a single moult; others cast them directly after the breedingseason, and thus have a double moult; and others again cast them at this season during the first year, but not afterwards; so that these latter species are intermediate in their manner of moulting. There is also a great difference with many birds in the length of time during which the two annual plumages are retained; so that the one might come to be retained for the whole year, and the other completely lost. Thus in the spring Machetes pugnax retains his ruff for barely two months. In Natal the male widow-bird (Chera progne) acquires his fine plumage and long tail-feathers in December or January, and loses them in March; so that they are retained only for about three months. Most species, which undergo a double moult, keep their ornamental feathers for about six months. The male, however, of the wild Gallus bankiva retains his neck-hackles for nine or ten months; and when these are cast off, the underlying black feathers on the neck are fully exposed to view. But with the domesticated descendant of this species, the neck-hackles of the male are immediately replaced by new ones; so that we here see, as to part of the plumage, a double moult changed under domestication into a single moult. (82. For the foregoing statements in regard to partial moults, and on old males retaining their nuptial plumage, see Jerdon, on bustards and plovers, in 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. pp. 617, 637, 709, 711. Also Blyth in 'Land and Water,' 1867, p. 84. On the moulting of Paradisea, see an interesting article by Dr. W. Marshall, 'Archives Neerlandaises,' tom. vi. 1871. On the Vidua, 'Ibis,' vol. iii. 1861, p. 133. On the Drongo- shrikes, Jerdon, ibid. vol. i. p. 435. On the vernal moult of the Herodias bubulcus, Mr. S.S. Allen, in 'Ibis,' 1863, p. 33. On Gallus bankiva, Blyth, in 'Annals and Mag. of Natural History,' vol. i. 1848, p. 455; see, also, on this subject, my 'Variation of Animals under Domestication,' vol. i. p. 236.)
The common drake (Anas boschas), after the breeding-season, is well known to lose his male plumage for a period of three months, during which time he assumes that of the female. The male pin-tail duck (Anas acuta) loses his plumage for the shorter period of six weeks or two months; and Montagu remarks that "this double moult within so short a time is a most extraordinary circumstance, that seems to bid defiance to all human reasoning." But the believer in the gradual modification of species will be far from feeling surprise at finding gradations of all kinds. If the male pin-tail were to acquire his new plumage within a still shorter period, the new male feathers would almost necessarily be mingled with the old, and both with some proper to the female; and this apparently is the case with the male of a not distantly-allied bird, namely the Merganser serrator, for the males are said to "undergo a change of plumage, which assimilates them in some measure to the female." By a little further acceleration in the process, the double moult would be completely lost. (83. See Macgillivray, 'Hist. British Birds' (vol. v. pp. 34, 70, and 223), on the moulting of the Anatidae, with quotations from Waterton and Montagu. Also Yarrell, 'History of British Birds,' vol. iii. p. 243.)
Some male birds, as before stated, become more brightly coloured in the spring, not by a vernal moult, but either by an actual change of colour in the feathers, or by their obscurely-coloured deciduary margins being shed. Changes of colour thus caused may last for a longer or shorter time. In the Pelecanus onocrotalus a beautiful rosy tint, with lemon-coloured marks on the breast, overspreads the whole plumage in the spring; but these tints, as Mr. Sclater states, "do not last long, disappearing generally in about six weeks or two months after they have been attained." Certain finches shed the margins of their feathers in the spring, and then become brighter coloured, while other finches undergo no such change. Thus the Fringilla tristis of the United States (as well as many other American species) exhibits its bright colours only when the winter is past, whilst our goldfinch, which exactly represents this bird in habits, and our siskin, which represents it still more closely in structure, undergo no such annual change. But a difference of this kind in the plumage of allied species is not surprising, for with the common linnet, which belongs to the same family, the crimson forehead and breast are displayed only during the summer in England, whilst in Madeira these colours are retained throughout the year. (84. On the pelican, see Sclater, in 'Proc. Zool. Soc.' 1868, p. 265. On the American finches, see Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. i. pp. 174, 221, and Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. ii. p. 383. On the Fringilla cannabina of Madeira, Mr. E. Vernon Harcourt, 'Ibis,' vol. v. 1863, p. 230.)DISPLAY BY MALE BIRDS OF THEIR PLUMAGE.
Ornaments of all kinds, whether permanently or temporarily gained, are sedulously displayed by the males, and apparently serve to excite, attract, or fascinate the females. But the males will sometimes display their ornaments, when not in the presence of the females, as occasionally occurs with grouse at their balz-places, and as may be noticed with the peacock; this latter bird, however, evidently wishes for a spectator of some kind, and, as I have often seen, will shew off his finery before poultry, or even pigs. (85. See also 'Ornamental Poultry,' by Rev. E.S. Dixon, 1848, p. 8.) All naturalists who have closely attended to the habits of birds, whether in a state of nature or under confinement, are unanimously of opinion that the males take delight in displaying their beauty. Audubon frequently speaks of the male as endeavouring in various ways to charm the female. Mr. Gould, after describing some peculiarities in a male humming- bird, says he has no doubt that it has the power of displaying them to the greatest advantage before the female. Dr. Jerdon (86. 'Birds of India,' introduct., vol. i. p. xxiv.; on the peacock, vol. iii. p. 507. See Gould's 'Introduction to Trochilidae,' 1861, pp. 15 and 111.) insists that the beautiful plumage of the male serves "to fascinate and attract the female." Mr. Bartlett, at the Zoological Gardens, expressed himself to me in the strongest terms to the same effect.[Fig. 50. Rupicola crocea, male (T.W. Wood).]
It must be a grand sight in the forests of India "to come suddenly on twenty or thirty peafowl, the males displaying their gorgeous trains, and strutting about in all the pomp of pride before the gratified females." The wild turkey-cock erects his glittering plumage, expands his finely- zoned tail and barred wing-feathers, and altogether, with his crimson and blue wattles, makes a superb, though, to our eyes, grotesque appearance. Similar facts have already been given with respect to grouse of various kinds. Turning to another Order: The male Rupicola crocea (Fig. 50) is one of the most beautiful birds in the world, being of a splendid orange, with some of the feathers curiously truncated and plumose. The female is brownish-green, shaded with red, and has a much smaller crest. Sir R. Schomburgk has described their courtship; he found one of their meeting- places where ten males and two females were present. The space was from four to five feet in diameter, and appeared to have been cleared of every blade of grass and smoothed as if by human hands. A male "was capering, to the apparent delight of several others. Now spreading its wings, throwing up its head, or opening its tail like a fan; now strutting about with a hopping gait until tired, when it gabbled some kind of note, and was relieved by another. Thus three of them successively took the field, and then, with self-approbation, withdrew to rest." The Indians, in order to obtain their skins, wait at one of the meeting-places till the birds are eagerly engaged in dancing, and then are able to kill with their poisoned arrows four or five males, one after the other. (87. 'Journal of R. Geograph. Soc.' vol. x. 1840, p. 236.) With birds of paradise a dozen or more full-plumaged males congregate in a tree to hold a dancing-party, as it is called by the natives: and here they fly about, raise their wings, elevate their exquisite plumes, and make them vibrate, and the whole tree seems, as Mr. Wallace remarks, to be filled with waving plumes. When thus engaged, they become so absorbed that a skilful archer may shoot nearly the whole party. These birds, when kept in confinement in the Malay Archipelago, are said to take much care in keeping their feathers clean; often spreading them out, examining them, and removing every speck of dirt. One observer, who kept several pairs alive, did not doubt that the display of the male was intended to please the female. (88. 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol. xiii. 1854, p. 157; also Wallace, ibid. vol. xx. 1857, p. 412, and 'The Malay Archipelago,' vol. ii. 1869, p. 252. Also Dr. Bennett, as quoted by Brehm, 'Thierleben,' B. iii. s. 326.)[Fig. 51. Polyplectron chinquis, male (T.W. Wood).]
The Gold and Amherst pheasants during their courtship not only expand and raise their splendid frills, but twist them, as I have myself seen, obliquely towards the female on whichever side she may be standing, obviously in order that a large surface may be displayed before her. (89. Mr. T.W. Wood has given ('The Student,' April 1870, p. 115) a full account of this manner of display, by the Gold pheasant and by the Japanese pheasant, Ph. versicolor; and he calls it the lateral or one-sided display.) They likewise turn their beautiful tails and tail-coverts a little towards the same side. Mr. Bartlett has observed a male Polyplectron (Fig. 51) in the act of courtship, and has shewn me a specimen stuffed in the attitude then assumed. The tail and wing-feathers of this bird are ornamented with beautiful ocelli, like those on the peacock's train. Now when the peacock displays himself, he expands and erects his tail transversely to his body, for he stands in front of the female, and has to shew off, at the same time, his rich blue throat and breast. But the breast of the Polyplectron is obscurely coloured, and the ocelli are not confined to the tail-feathers. Consequently the Polyplectron does not stand in front of the female; but he erects and expands his tail-feathers a little obliquely, lowering the expanded wing on the same side, and raising that on the opposite side. In this attitude the ocelli over the whole body are exposed at the same time before the eyes of the admiring female in one grand bespangled expanse. To whichever side she may turn, the expanded wings and the obliquely-held tail are turned towards her. The male Tragopan pheasant acts in nearly the same manner, for he raises the feathers of the body, though not the wing itself, on the side which is opposite to the female, and which would otherwise be concealed, so that nearly all the beautifully spotted feathers are exhibited at the same time.[Fig. 52. Side view of male Argus pheasant, whilst displaying before the female. Observed and sketched from nature by T.W. Wood.]
The Argus pheasant affords a much more remarkable case. The immensely developed secondary wing-feathers are confined to the male; and each is ornamented with a row of from twenty to twenty-three ocelli, above an inch in diameter. These feathers are also elegantly marked with oblique stripes and rows of spots of a dark colour, like those on the skin of a tiger and leopard combined. These beautiful ornaments are hidden until the male shows himself off before the female. He then erects his tail, and expands his wingfeathers into a great, almost upright, circular fan or shield, which is carried in front of the body. The neck and head are held on one side, so that they are concealed by the fan; but the bird in order to see the female, before whom he is displaying himself, sometimes pushes his head between two of the long wing-feathers (as Mr. Bartlett has seen), and then presents a grotesque appearance. This must be a frequent habit with the bird in a state of nature, for Mr. Bartlett and his son on examining some perfect skins sent from the East, found a place between two of the feathers which was much frayed, as if the head had here frequently been pushed through. Mr. Wood thinks that the male can also peep at the female on one side, beyond the margin of the fan.
The ocelli on the wing-feathers are wonderful objects; for they are so shaded that, as the Duke of Argyll remarks (90. 'The Reign of Law,' 1867, p. 203.), they stand out like balls lying loosely within sockets. When I looked at the specimen in the British Museum, which is mounted with the wings expanded and trailing downwards, I was however greatly disappointed, for the ocelli appeared flat, or even concave. But Mr. Gould soon made the case clear to me, for he held the feathers erect, in the position in which they would naturally be displayed, and now, from the light shining on them from above, each ocellus at once resembled the ornament called a ball and socket. These feathers have been shown to several artists, and all have expressed their admiration at the perfect shading. It may well be asked, could such artistically shaded ornaments have been formed by means of sexual selection? But it will be convenient to defer giving an answer to this question until we treat in the next chapter of the principle of gradation.
The foregoing remarks relate to the secondary wing-feathers, but the primary wingfeathers, which in most gallinaceous birds are uniformly coloured, are in the Argus pheasant equally wonderful. They are of a soft brown tint with numerous dark spots, each of which consists of two or three black dots with a surrounding dark zone. But the chief ornament is a space parallel to the dark-blue shaft, which in outline forms a perfect second feather lying within the true feather. This inner part is coloured of a lighter chestnut, and is thickly dotted with minute white points. I have shewn this feather to several persons, and many have admired it even more than the ball and socket feathers, and have declared that it was more like a work of art than of nature. Now these feathers are quite hidden on all ordinary occasions, but are fully displayed, together with the long secondary feathers, when they are all expanded together so as to form the great fan or shield.
The case of the male Argus pheasant is eminently interesting, because it affords good evidence that the most refined beauty may serve as a sexual charm, and for no other purpose. We must conclude that this is the case, as the secondary and primary wingfeathers are not at all displayed, and the ball and socket ornaments are not exhibited in full perfection until the male assumes the attitude of courtship. The Argus pheasant does not possess brilliant colours, so that his success in love appears to depend on the great size of his plumes, and on the elaboration of the most elegant patterns. Many will declare that it is utterly incredible that a female bird should be able to appreciate fine shading and exquisite patterns. It is undoubtedly a marvellous fact that she should possess this almost human degree of taste. He who thinks that he can safely gauge the discrimination and taste of the lower animals may deny that the female Argus pheasant can appreciate such refined beauty; but he will then be compelled to admit that the extraordinary attitudes assumed by the male during the act of courtship, by which the wonderful beauty of his plumage is fully displayed, are purposeless; and this is a conclusion which I for one will never admit.
Although so many pheasants and allied gallinaceous birds carefully display their plumage before the females, it is remarkable, as Mr. Bartlett informs me, that this is not the case with the dull-coloured Eared and Cheer pheasants (Crossoptilon auritum and Phasianus wallichii); so that these birds seem conscious that they have little beauty to display. Mr. Bartlett has never seen the males of either of these species fighting together, though he has not had such good opportunities for observing the Cheer as the Eared pheasant. Mr. Jenner Weir, also, finds that all male birds with rich or strongly-characterised plumage are more quarrelsome than the dull- coloured species belonging to the same groups. The goldfinch, for instance, is far more pugnacious than the linnet, and the blackbird than the thrush. Those birds which undergo a seasonal change of plumage likewise become much more pugnacious at the period when they are most gaily ornamented. No doubt the males of some obscurely-coloured birds fight desperately together, but it appears that when sexual selection has been highly influential, and has given bright colours to the males of any species, it has also very often given a strong tendency to pugnacity. We shall meet with nearly analogous cases when we treat of mammals. On the other hand, with birds the power of song and brilliant colours have rarely been both acquired by the males of the same species; but in this case the advantage gained would have been the same, namely success in charming the female. Nevertheless it must be owned that the males of several brilliantly coloured birds have had their feathers specially modified for the sake of producing instrumental music, though the beauty of this cannot be compared, at least according to our taste, with that of the vocal music of many songsters.
We will now turn to male birds which are not ornamented in any high degree, but which nevertheless display during their courtship whatever attractions they may possess. These cases are in some respects more curious than the foregoing, and have been but little noticed. I owe the following facts to Mr. Weir, who has long kept confined birds of many kinds, including all the British Fringillidae and Emberizidae. The facts have been selected from a large body of valuable notes kindly sent me by him. The bullfinch makes his advances in front of the female, and then puffs out his breast, so that many more of the crimson feathers are seen at once than otherwise would be the case. At the same time he twists and bows his black tail from side to side in a ludicrous manner. The male chaffinch also stands in front of the female, thus shewing his red breast and "blue bell," as the fanciers call his head; the wings at the same time being slightly expanded, with the pure white bands on the shoulders thus rendered conspicuous. The common linnet distends his rosy breast, slightly expands his brown wings and tail, so as to make the best of them by exhibiting their white edgings. We must, however, be cautious in concluding that the wings are spread out solely for display, as some birds do so whose wings are not beautiful. This is the case with the domestic cock, but it is always the wing on the side opposite to the female which is expanded, and at the same time scraped on the ground. The male goldfinch behaves differently from all other finches: his wings are beautiful, the shoulders being black, with the dark-tipped wing-feathers spotted with white and edged with golden yellow. When he courts the female, he sways his body from side to side, and quickly turns his slightly expanded wings first to one side, then to the other, with a golden flashing effect. Mr. Weir informs me that no other British finch turns thus from side to side during his courtship, not even the closely- allied male siskin, for he would not thus add to his beauty.
Most of the British Buntings are plain coloured birds; but in the spring the feathers on the head of the male reed-bunting (Emberiza schoeniculus) acquire a fine black colour by the abrasion of the dusky tips; and these are erected during the act of courtship. Mr. Weir has kept two species of Amadina from Australia: the A. castanotis is a very small and chastely coloured finch, with a dark tail, white rump, and jet-black upper tail- coverts, each of the latter being marked with three large conspicuous oval spots of white. (91. For the description of these birds, see Gould's 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. 1865, p. 417.) This species, when courting the female, slightly spreads out and vibrates these parti- coloured tail-coverts in a very peculiar manner. The male Amadina Lathami behaves very differently, exhibiting before the female his brilliantly spotted breast, scarlet rump, and scarlet upper tail-coverts. I may here add from Dr. Jerdon that the Indian bulbul (Pycnonotus hoemorrhous) has its under tail-coverts of a crimson colour, and these, it might be thought, could never be well exhibited; but the bird "when excited often spreads them out laterally, so that they can be seen even from above." (92. 'Birds of India,' vol. ii. p. 96.) The crimson under tail-coverts of some other birds, as with one of the woodpeckers, Picus major, can be seen without any such display. The common pigeon has iridescent feathers on the breast, and every one must have seen how the male inflates his breast whilst courting the female, thus shewing them off to the best advantage. One of the beautiful bronze-winged pigeons of Australia (Ocyphaps lophotes) behaves, as described to me by Mr. Weir, very differently: the male, whilst standing before the female, lowers his head almost to the ground, spreads out and raises his tail, and half expands his wings. He then alternately and slowly raises and depresses his body, so that the iridescent metallic feathers are all seen at once, and glitter in the sun.
Sufficient facts have now been given to shew with what care male birds display their various charms, and this they do with the utmost skill. Whilst preening their feathers, they have frequent opportunities for admiring themselves, and of studying how best to exhibit their beauty. But as all the males of the same species display themselves in exactly the same manner, it appears that actions, at first perhaps intentional, have become instinctive. If so, we ought not to accuse birds of conscious vanity; yet when we see a peacock strutting about, with expanded and quivering tail- feathers, he seems the very emblem of pride and vanity.
The various ornaments possessed by the males are certainly of the highest importance to them, for in some cases they have been acquired at the expense of greatly impeded powers of flight or of running. The African night-jar (Cosmetornis), which during the pairing-season has one of its primary wing-feathers developed into a streamer of very great length, is thereby much retarded in its flight, although at other times remarkable for its swiftness. The "unwieldy size" of the secondary wing-feathers of the male Argus pheasant is said "almost entirely to deprive the bird of flight." The fine plumes of male birds of paradise trouble them during a high wind. The extremely long tail-feathers of the male widow-birds (Vidua) of Southern Africa render "their flight heavy;" but as soon as these are cast off they fly as well as the females. As birds always breed when food is abundant, the males probably do not suffer much inconvenience in searching for food from their impeded powers of movement; but there can hardly be a doubt that they must be much more liable to be struck down by birds of prey. Nor can we doubt that the long train of the peacock and the long tail and wing-feathers of the Argus pheasant must render them an easier prey to any prowling tiger-cat than would otherwise be the case. Even the bright colours of many male birds cannot fail to make them conspicuous to their enemies of all kinds. Hence, as Mr. Gould has remarked, it probably is that such birds are generally of a shy disposition, as if conscious that their beauty was a source of danger, and are much more difficult to discover or approach, than the sombre coloured and comparatively tame females or than the young and as yet unadorned males. (93. On the Cosmetornis, see Livingstone's 'Expedition to the Zambesi,' 1865, p. 66. On the Argus pheasant, Jardine's 'Nat. Hist. Lib.: Birds,' vol. xiv. p. 167. On Birds of Paradise, Lesson, quoted by Brehm, 'Thierleben,' B. iii. s. 325. On the widow-bird, Barrow's 'Travels in Africa,' vol. i. p. 243, and 'Ibis,' vol. iii. 1861 p. 133. Mr. Gould, on the shyness of male birds, 'Handbook to Birds of Australia,' vol. i. 1865, pp. 210, 457.)
It is a more curious fact that the males of some birds which are provided with special weapons for battle, and which in a state of nature are so pugnacious that they often kill each other, suffer from possessing certain ornaments. Cock-fighters trim the hackles and cut off the combs and gills of their cocks; and the birds are then said to be dubbed. An undubbed bird, as Mr. Tegetmeier insists, "is at a fearful disadvantage; the comb and gills offer an easy hold to his adversary's beak, and as a cock always strikes where he holds, when once he has seized his foe, he has him entirely in his power. Even supposing that the bird is not killed, the loss of blood suffered by an undubbed cock is much greater than that sustained by one that has been trimmed." (94. Tegetmeier, 'The Poultry Book,' 1866, p. 139.) Young turkey-cocks in fighting always seize hold of each other's wattles; and I presume that the old birds fight in the same manner. It may perhaps be objected that the comb and wattles are not ornamental, and cannot be of service to the birds in this way; but even to our eyes, the beauty of the glossy black Spanish cock is much enhanced by his white face and crimson comb; and no one who has ever seen the splendid blue wattles of the male Tragopan pheasant distended in courtship can for a moment doubt that beauty is the object gained. From the foregoing facts we clearly see that the plumes and other ornaments of the males must be of the highest importance to them; and we further see that beauty is even sometimes more important than success in battle.
Choice exerted by the female--Length of courtship--Unpaired birds--Mental qualities and taste for the beautiful--Preference or antipathy shewn by the female for particular males-Variability of birds--Variations sometimes abrupt--Laws of variation--Formation of ocelli--Gradations of character-- Case of Peacock, Argus pheasant, and Urosticte.
When the sexes differ in beauty or in the power of singing, or in producing what I have called instrumental music, it is almost invariably the male who surpasses the female. These qualities, as we have just seen, are evidently of high importance to the male. When they are gained for only a part of the year it is always before the breeding-season. It is the male alone who elaborately displays his varied attractions, and often performs strange antics on the ground or in the air, in the presence of the female. Each male drives away, or if he can, kills his rivals. Hence we may conclude that it is the object of the male to induce the female to pair with him, and for this purpose he tries to excite or charm her in various ways; and this is the opinion of all those who have carefully studied the habits of living birds. But there remains a question which has an all important bearing on sexual selection, namely, does every male of the same species excite and attract the female equally? Or does she exert a choice, and prefer certain males? This latter question can be answered in the affirmative by much direct and indirect evidence. It is far more difficult to decide what qualities determine the choice of the females; but here again we have some direct and indirect evidence that it is to a large extent the external attractions of the male; though no doubt his vigour, courage, and other mental qualities come into play. We will begin with the indirect evidence.LENGTH OF COURTSHIP.
The lengthened period during which both sexes of certain birds meet day after day at an appointed place probably depends partly on the courtship being a prolonged affair, and partly on reiteration in the act of pairing. Thus in Germany and Scandinavia the balzen or leks of the black-cocks last from the middle of March, all through April into May. As many as forty or fifty, or even more birds congregate at the leks; and the same place is often frequented during successive years. The lek of the capercailzie lasts from the end of March to the middle or even end of May. In North America "the partridge dances" of the Tetrao phasianellus "last for a month or more." Other kinds of grouse, both in North America and Eastern Siberia (1. Nordman describes ('Bull. Soc. Imp. des Nat. Moscou,' 1861, tom. xxxiv. p. 264) the balzen of Tetrao urogalloides in Amur Land. He estimated the number of birds assembled at above a hundred, not counting the females, which lie hid in the surrounding bushes. The noises uttered differ from those of T. urogallus.), follow nearly the same habits. The fowlers discover the hillocks where the ruffs congregate by the grass being trampled bare, and this shews that the same spot is long frequented. The Indians of Guiana are well acquainted with the cleared arenas, where they expect to find the beautiful cocks of the Rock; and the natives of New Guinea know the trees where from ten to twenty male birds of paradise in full plumage congregate. In this latter case it is not expressly stated that the females meet on the same trees, but the hunters, if not specially asked, would probably not mention their presence, as their skins are valueless. Small parties of an African weaver (Ploceus) congregate, during the breeding-season, and perform for hours their graceful evolutions. Large numbers of the Solitary snipe (Scolopax major) assemble during dusk in a morass; and the same place is frequented for the same purpose during successive years; here they may be seen running about "like so many large rats," puffing out their feathers, flapping their wings, and uttering the strangest cries. (2. With respect to the assemblages of the above named grouse, see Brehm, 'Thierleben,' B. iv. s. 350; also L. Lloyd, 'Game Birds of Sweden,' 1867, pp. 19, 78. Richardson, 'Fauna Bor. Americana: Birds,' p. 362. References in regard to the assemblages of other birds have already been given. On Paradisea, see Wallace, in 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol. xx. 1857, p. 412. On the snipe, Lloyd, ibid. p. 221.)
Some of the above birds,--the black-cock, capercailzie, pheasant-grouse, ruff, solitary snipe, and perhaps others,--are, as is believed, polygamists. With such birds it might have been thought that the stronger males would simply have driven away the weaker, and then at once have taken possession of as many females as possible; but if it be indispensable for the male to excite or please the female, we can understand the length of the courtship and the congregation of so many individuals of both sexes at the same spot. Certain strictly monogamous species likewise hold nuptial assemblages; this seems to be the case in Scandinavia with one of the ptarmigans, and their leks last from the middle of March to the middle of May. In Australia the lyre-bird (Menura superba) forms "small round hillocks," and the M. Alberti scratches for itself shallow holes, or, as they are called by the natives, "corroborying places," where it is believed both sexes assemble. The meetings of the M. superba are sometimes very large; and an account has lately been published (3. Quoted by Mr. T.W. Wood, in the 'Student,' April 1870, p. 125.) by a traveller, who heard in a valley beneath him, thickly covered with scrub, "a din which completely astonished" him; on crawling onwards he beheld, to his amazement, about one hundred and fifty of the magnificent lyre-cocks, "ranged in order of battle, and fighting with indescribable fury." The bowers of the Bower- birds are the resort of both sexes during the breeding-season; and "here the males meet and contend with each other for the favours of the female, and here the latter assemble and coquet with the males." With two of the genera, the same bower is resorted to during many years. (4. Gould, 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. pp. 300, 308, 448, 451. On the ptarmigan, above alluded to, see Lloyd, ibid. p. 129.)
The common magpie (Corvus pica, Linn.), as I have been informed by the Rev. W. Darwin Fox, used to assemble from all parts of Delamere Forest, in order to celebrate the "great magpie marriage." Some years ago these birds abounded in extraordinary numbers, so that a gamekeeper killed in one morning nineteen males, and another killed by a single shot seven birds at roost together. They then had the habit of assembling very early in the spring at particular spots, where they could be seen in flocks, chattering, sometimes fighting, bustling and flying about the trees. The whole affair was evidently considered by the birds as one of the highest importance. Shortly after the meeting they all separated, and were then observed by Mr. Fox and others to be paired for the season. In any district in which a species does not exist in large numbers, great assemblages cannot, of course, be held, and the same species may have different habits in different countries. For instance, I have heard of only one instance, from Mr. Wedderburn, of a regular assemblage of black game in Scotland, yet these assemblages are so well known in Germany and Scandinavia that they have received special names.UNPAIRED BIRDS.
From the facts now given, we may conclude that the courtship of birds belonging to widely different groups, is often a prolonged, delicate, and troublesome affair. There is even reason to suspect, improbable as this will at first appear, that some males and females of the same species, inhabiting the same district, do not always please each other, and consequently do not pair. Many accounts have been published of either the male or female of a pair having been shot, and quickly replaced by another. This has been observed more frequently with the magpie than with any other bird, owing perhaps to its conspicuous appearance and nest. The illustrious Jenner states that in Wiltshire one of a pair was daily shot no less than seven times successively, "but all to no purpose, for the remaining magpie soon found another mate"; and the last pair reared their young. A new partner is generally found on the succeeding day; but Mr. Thompson gives the case of one being replaced on the evening of the same day. Even after the eggs are hatched, if one of the old birds is destroyed a mate will often be found; this occurred after an interval of two days, in a case recently observed by one of Sir J. Lubbock's keepers. (5. On magpies, Jenner, in 'Philosophical Transactions,' 1824, p. 21. Macgillivray, 'Hist. British Birds,' vol. i. p. 570. Thompson, in 'Annals and Magazine of Natural History,' vol. viii. 1842, p. 494.) The first and most obvious conjecture is that male magpies must be much more numerous than females; and that in the above cases, as well as in many others which could be given, the males alone had been killed. This apparently holds good in some instances, for the gamekeepers in Delamere Forest assured Mr. Fox that the magpies and carrion-crows which they formerly killed in succession in large numbers near their nests, were all males; and they accounted for this fact by the males being easily killed whilst bringing food to the sitting females. Macgillivray, however, gives, on the authority of an excellent observer, an instance of three magpies successively killed on the same nest, which were all females; and another case of six magpies successively killed whilst sitting on the same eggs, which renders it probable that most of them were females; though, as I hear from Mr. Fox, the male will sit on the eggs when the female is killed.
Sir J. Lubbock's gamekeeper has repeatedly shot, but how often he could not say, one of a pair of jays (Garrulus glandarius), and has never failed shortly afterwards to find the survivor re-matched. Mr. Fox, Mr. F. Bond, and others have shot one of a pair of carrioncrows (Corvus corone), but the nest was soon again tenanted by a pair. These birds are rather common; but the peregrine-falcon (Falco peregrinus) is rare, yet Mr. Thompson states that in Ireland "if either an old male or female be killed in the breeding-season (not an uncommon circumstance), another mate is found within a very few days, so that the eyries, notwithstanding such casualties, are sure to turn out their complement of young." Mr. Jenner Weir has known the same thing with the peregrine-falcons at Beachy Head. The same observer informs me that three kestrels (Falco tinnunculus), all males, were killed one after the other whilst attending the same nest; two of these were in mature plumage, but the third was in the plumage of the previous year. Even with the rare golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Mr. Birkbeck was assured by a trustworthy gamekeeper in Scotland, that if one is killed, another is soon found. So with the white owl (Strix flammea), "the survivor readily found a mate, and the mischief went on."
White of Selborne, who gives the case of the owl, adds that he knew a man, who from believing that partridges when paired were disturbed by the males fighting, used to shoot them; and though he had widowed the same female several times, she always soon found a fresh partner. This same naturalist ordered the sparrows, which deprived the housemartins of their nests, to be shot; but the one which was left, "be it cock or hen, presently procured a mate, and so for several times following." I could add analogous cases relating to the chaffinch, nightingale, and redstart. With respect to the latter bird (Phoenicura ruticilla), a writer expresses much surprise how the sitting female could so soon have given effectual notice that she was a widow, for the species was not common in the neighbourhood. Mr. Jenner Weir has mentioned to me a nearly similar case; at Blackheath he never sees or hears the note of the wild bullfinch, yet when one of his caged males has died, a wild one in the course of a few days has generally come and perched near the widowed female, whose call-note is not loud. I will give only one other fact, on the authority of this same observer; one of a pair of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) was shot in the morning; by noon a new mate was found; this was again shot, but before night the pair was complete; so that the disconsolate widow or widower was thrice consoled during the same day. Mr. Engleheart also informs me that he used during several years to shoot one of a pair of starlings which built in a hole in a house at Blackheath; but the loss was always immediately repaired. During one season he kept an account, and found that he had shot thirty-five birds from the same nest; these consisted of both males and females, but in what proportion he could not say: nevertheless, after all this destruction, a brood was reared. (6. On the peregrine falcon, see Thompson, 'Nat. Hist. of Ireland: Birds,' vol. i. 1849, p. 39. On owls, sparrows, and partridges, see White, 'Nat. Hist. of Selborne,' edit. of 1825, vol. i. p. 139. On the Phoenicura, see Loudon's 'Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol. vii. 1834, p. 245. Brehm ('Thierleben,' B. iv. s. 991) also alludes to cases of birds thrice mated during the same day.)
These facts well deserve attention. How is it that there are birds enough ready to replace immediately a lost mate of either sex? Magpies, jays, carrion-crows, partridges, and some other birds, are always seen during the spring in pairs, and never by themselves; and these offer at first sight the most perplexing cases. But birds of the same sex, although of course not truly paired, sometimes live in pairs or in small parties, as is known to be the case with pigeons and partridges. Birds also sometimes live in triplets, as has been observed with starlings, carrion-crows, parrots, and partridges. With partridges two females have been known to live with one male, and two males with one female. In all such cases it is probable that the union would be easily broken; and one of the three would readily pair with a widow or widower. The males of certain birds may occasionally be heard pouring forth their love-song long after the proper time, shewing that they have either lost or never gained a mate. Death from accident or disease of one of a pair would leave the other free and single; and there is reason to believe that female birds during the breeding-season are especially liable to premature death. Again, birds which have had their nests destroyed, or barren pairs, or retarded individuals, would easily be induced to desert their mates, and would probably be glad to take what share they could of the pleasures and duties of rearing offspring although not their own. (7. See White ('Nat. Hist. of Selborne,' 1825, vol. i. p. 140) on the existence, early in the season, of small coveys of male partridges, of which fact I have heard other instances. See Jenner, on the retarded state of the generative organs in certain birds, in 'Phil. Transact.' 1824. In regard to birds living in triplets, I owe to Mr. Jenner Weir the cases of the starlings and parrots, and to Mr. Fox, of partridges; on carrion-crows, see the 'Field,' 1868, p. 415. On various male birds singing after the proper period, see Rev. L. Jenyns, 'Observations in Natural History,' 1846, p. 87.) Such contingencies as these probably explain most of the foregoing cases. (8. The following case has been given ('The Times,' Aug. 6, 1868) by the Rev. F.O. Morris, on the authority of the Hon. and Rev. O.W. Forester. "The gamekeeper here found a hawk's nest this year, with five young ones on it. He took four and killed them, but left one with its wings clipped as a decoy to destroy the old ones by. They were both shot next day, in the act of feeding the young one, and the keeper thought it was done with. The next day he came again and found two other charitable hawks, who had come with an adopted feeling to succour the orphan. These two he killed, and then left the nest. On returning afterwards he found two more charitable individuals on the same errand of mercy. One of these he killed; the other he also shot, but could not find. No more came on the like fruitless errand.") Nevertheless, it is a strange fact that within the same district, during the height of the breeding-season, there should be so many males and females always ready to repair the loss of a mated bird. Why do not such spare birds immediately pair together? Have we not some reason to suspect, and the suspicion has occurred to Mr. Jenner Weir, that as the courtship of birds appears to be in many cases prolonged and tedious, so it occasionally happens that certain males and females do not succeed, during the proper season, in exciting each other's love, and consequently do not pair? This suspicion will appear somewhat less improbable after we have seen what strong antipathies and preferences female birds occasionally evince towards particular males.MENTAL QUALITIES OF BIRDS, AND THEIR TASTE FOR THE BEAUTIFUL.
Before we further discuss the question whether the females select the more attractive males or accept the first whom they may encounter, it will be advisable briefly to consider the mental powers of birds. Their reason is generally, and perhaps justly, ranked as low; yet some facts could be given leading to an opposite conclusion. (9. I am indebted to Prof. Newton for the following passage from Mr. Adam's 'Travels of a Naturalist,' 1870, p. 278. Speaking of Japanese nut-hatches in confinement, he says: "Instead of the more yielding fruit of the yew, which is the usual food of the nut- hatch of Japan, at one time I substituted hard hazel-nuts. As the bird was unable to crack them, he placed them one by one in his water-glass, evidently with the notion that they would in time become softer--an interesting proof of intelligence on the part of these birds.") Low powers of reasoning, however, are compatible, as we see with mankind, with strong affections, acute perception, and a taste for the beautiful; and it is with these latter qualities that we are here concerned. It has often been said that parrots become so deeply attached to each other that when one dies the other pines for a long time; but Mr. Jenner Weir thinks that with most birds the strength of their affection has been much exaggerated. Nevertheless when one of a pair in a state of nature has been shot, the survivor has been heard for days afterwards uttering a plaintive call; and Mr. St. John gives various facts proving the attachment of mated birds. (10. 'A Tour in Sutherlandshire,' vol. i. 1849, p. 185. Dr. Buller says ('Birds of New Zealand,' 1872, p. 56) that a male King Lory was killed; and the female "fretted and moped, refused her food, and died of a broken heart.") Mr. Bennett relates (11. 'Wanderings in New South Wales,' vol. ii. 1834, p. 62.) that in China after a drake of the beautiful mandarin Teal had been stolen, the duck remained disconsolate, though sedulously courted by another mandarin drake, who displayed before her all his charms. After an interval of three weeks the stolen drake was recovered, and instantly the pair recognised each other with extreme joy. On the other hand, starlings, as we have seen, may be consoled thrice in the same day for the loss of their mates. Pigeons have such excellent local memories, that they have been known to return to their former homes after an interval of nine months, yet, as I hear from Mr. Harrison Weir, if a pair which naturally would remain mated for life be separated for a few weeks during the winter, and afterwards matched with other birds, the two when brought together again, rarely, if ever, recognise each other.
Birds sometimes exhibit benevolent feelings; they will feed the deserted young ones even of distinct species, but this perhaps ought to be considered as a mistaken instinct. They will feed, as shewn in an earlier part of this work, adult birds of their own species which have become blind. Mr. Buxton gives a curious account of a parrot which took care of a frost-bitten and crippled bird of a distinct species, cleansed her feathers, and defended her from the attacks of the other parrots which roamed freely about his garden. It is a still more curious fact that these birds apparently evince some sympathy for the pleasures of their fellows. When a pair of cockatoos made a nest in an acacia tree, "it was ridiculous to see the extravagant interest taken in the matter by the others of the same species." These parrots, also, evinced unbounded curiosity, and clearly had "the idea of property and possession." (12. 'Acclimatization of Parrots,' by C. Buxton, M.P., 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.' Nov. 1868, p. 381.) They have good memories, for in the Zoological Gardens they have plainly recognised their former masters after an interval of some months.
Birds possess acute powers of observation. Every mated bird, of course, recognises its fellow. Audubon states that a certain number of mocking- thrushes (Mimus polyglottus) remain all the year round in Louisiana, whilst others migrate to the Eastern States; these latter, on their return, are instantly recognised, and always attacked, by their southern brethren. Birds under confinement distinguish different persons, as is proved by the strong and permanent antipathy or affection which they shew, without any apparent cause, towards certain individuals. I have heard of numerous instances with jays, partridges, canaries, and especially bullfinches. Mr. Hussey has described in how extraordinary a manner a tamed partridge recognised everybody: and its likes and dislikes were very strong. This bird seemed "fond of gay colours, and no new gown or cap could be put on without catching his attention." (13. The 'Zoologist,' 1847-48, p. 1602.) Mr. Hewitt has described the habits of some ducks (recently descended from wild birds), which, at the approach of a strange dog or cat, would rush headlong into the water, and exhaust themselves in their attempts to escape; but they knew Mr. Hewitt's own dogs and cats so well that they would lie down and bask in the sun close to them. They always moved away from a strange man, and so they would from the lady who attended them if she made any great change in her dress. Audubon relates that he reared and tamed a wild turkey which always ran away from any strange dog; this bird escaped into the woods, and some days afterwards Audubon saw, as he thought, a wild turkey, and made his dog chase it; but, to his astonishment, the bird did not run away, and the dog, when he came up, did not attack the bird, for they mutually recognised each other as old friends. (14. Hewitt on wild ducks, 'Journal of Horticulture,' Jan. 13, 1863, p. 39. Audubon on the wild turkey, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. i. p. 14. On the mocking-thrush, ibid. vol. i. p. 110.)
Mr. Jenner Weir is convinced that birds pay particular attention to the colours of other birds, sometimes out of jealousy, and sometimes as a sign of kinship. Thus he turned a reed-bunting (Emberiza schoeniculus), which had acquired its black head-dress, into his aviary, and the new-comer was not noticed by any bird, except by a bullfinch, which is likewise black- headed. This bullfinch was a very quiet bird, and had never before quarrelled with any of its comrades, including another reed-bunting, which had not as yet become black-headed: but the reed-bunting with a black head was so unmercifully treated that it had to be removed. Spiza cyanea, during the breeding-season, is of a bright blue colour; and though generally peaceable, it attacked S. ciris, which has only the head blue, and completely scalped the unfortunate bird. Mr. Weir was also obliged to turn out a robin, as it fiercely attacked all the birds in his aviary with any red in their plumage, but no other kinds; it actually killed a red- breasted crossbill, and nearly killed a goldfinch. On the other band, he has observed that some birds, when first introduced, fly towards the species which resemble them most in colour, and settle by their sides.
As male birds display their fine plumage and other ornaments with so much care before the females, it is obviously probable that these appreciate the beauty of their suitors. It is, however, difficult to obtain direct evidence of their capacity to appreciate beauty. When birds gaze at themselves in a looking-glass (of which many instances have been recorded) we cannot feel sure that it is not from jealousy of a supposed rival, though this is not the conclusion of some observers. In other cases it is difficult to distinguish between mere curiosity and admiration. It is perhaps the former feeling which, as stated by Lord Lilford (15. The 'Ibis,' vol. ii. 1860, p. 344.), attracts the ruff towards any bright object, so that, in the Ionian Islands, "it will dart down to a bright- coloured handkerchief, regardless of repeated shots." The common lark is drawn down from the sky, and is caught in large numbers, by a small mirror made to move and glitter in the sun. Is it admiration or curiosity which leads the magpie, raven, and some other birds to steal and secrete bright objects, such as silver articles or jewels?
Mr. Gould states that certain humming-birds decorate the outsides of their nests "with the utmost taste; they instinctively fasten thereon beautiful pieces of flat lichen, the larger pieces in the middle, and the smaller on the part attached to the branch. Now and then a pretty feather is intertwined or fastened to the outer sides, the stem being always so placed that the feather stands out beyond the surface." The best evidence, however, of a taste for the beautiful is afforded by the three genera of Australian bower-birds already mentioned. Their bowers (Fig. 46), where the sexes congregate and play strange antics, are variously constructed, but what most concerns us is, that they are decorated by the several species in a different manner. The Satin bower-bird collects gaily- coloured articles, such as the blue tail-feathers of parrakeets, bleached bones and shells, which it sticks between the twigs or arranges at the entrance. Mr. Gould found in one bower a neatly-worked stone tomahawk and a slip of blue cotton, evidently procured from a native encampment. These objects are continually re-arranged, and carried about by the birds whilst at play. The bower of the Spotted bower-bird "is beautifully lined with tall grasses, so disposed that the heads nearly meet, and the decorations are very profuse." Round stones are used to keep the grass-stems in their proper places, and to make divergent paths leading to the bower. The stones and shells are often brought from a great distance. The Regent bird, as described by Mr. Ramsay, ornaments its short bower with bleached land-shells belonging to five or six species, and with "berries of various colours, blue, red, and black, which give it when fresh a very pretty appearance. Besides these there were several newly-picked leaves and young shoots of a pinkish colour, the whole showing a decided taste for the beautiful." Well may Mr. Gould say that "these highly decorated halls of assembly must be regarded as the most wonderful instances of bird- architecture yet discovered;" and the taste, as we see, of the several species certainly differs. (16. On the ornamented nests of humming-birds, Gould, 'Introduction to the Trochilidae,' 1861, p. 19. On the bower-birds, Gould, 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' 1865, vol. i. pp. 444-461. Ramsay, in the 'Ibis,' 1867, p. 456.)PREFERENCE FOR PARTICULAR MALES BY THE FEMALES.
Having made these preliminary remarks on the discrimination and taste of birds, I will give all the facts known to me which bear on the preference shewn by the female for particular males. It is certain that distinct species of birds occasionally pair in a state of nature and produce hybrids. Many instances could be given: thus Macgillivray relates how a male blackbird and female thrush "fell in love with each other," and produced offspring. (17. 'History of Brit. Birds,' vol. ii. p. 92.) Several years ago eighteen cases had been recorded of the occurrence in Great Britain of hybrids between the black grouse and pheasant (18. 'Zoologist,' 1853-1854, p. 3946.); but most of these cases may perhaps be accounted for by solitary birds not finding one of their own species to pair with. With other birds, as Mr. Jenner Weir has reason to believe, hybrids are sometimes the result of the casual intercourse of birds building in close proximity. But these remarks do not apply to the many recorded instances of tamed or domestic birds, belonging to distinct species, which have become absolutely fascinated with each other, although living with their own species. Thus Waterton (19. Waterton, 'Essays on Nat. Hist.' 2nd series, pp. 42 and 117. For the following statements see on the wigeon, 'Loudon's Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol. ix. p. 616; L. Lloyd, 'Scandinavian Adventures,' vol. i. 1854, p. 452. Dixon, 'Ornamental and Domestic Poultry,' p. 137; Hewitt, in 'Journal of Horticulture,' Jan. 13, 1863, p. 40; Bechstein, 'Stubenvogel,' 1840, s. 230. Mr. J. Jenner Weir has lately given me an analogous case with ducks of two species.) states that out of a flock of twentythree Canada geese, a female paired with a solitary Bernicle gander, although so different in appearance and size; and they produced hybrid offspring. A male wigeon (Mareca penelope), living with females of the same species, has been known to pair with a pintail duck, Querquedula acuta. Lloyd describes the remarkable attachment between a shielddrake (Tadorna vulpanser) and a common duck. Many additional instances could be given; and the Rev. E.S. Dixon remarks that "those who have kept many different species of geese together well know what unaccountable attachments they are frequently forming, and that they are quite as likely to pair and rear young with individuals of a race (species) apparently the most alien to themselves as with their own stock."
The Rev. W.D. Fox informs me that he possessed at the same time a pair of Chinese geese (Anser cygnoides), and a common gander with three geese. The two lots kept quite separate, until the Chinese gander seduced one of the common geese to live with him. Moreover, of the young birds hatched from the eggs of the common geese, only four were pure, the other eighteen proving hybrids; so that the Chinese gander seems to have had prepotent charms over the common gander. I will give only one other case; Mr. Hewitt states that a wild duck, reared in captivity, "after breeding a couple of seasons with her own mallard, at once shook him off on my placing a male Pintail on the water. It was evidently a case of love at first sight, for she swam about the new-comer caressingly, though he appeared evidently alarmed and averse to her overtures of affection. From that hour she forgot her old partner. Winter passed by, and the next spring the pintail seemed to have become a convert to her blandishments, for they nested and produced seven or eight young ones."
What the charm may have been in these several cases, beyond mere novelty, we cannot even conjecture. Colour, however, sometimes comes into play; for in order to raise hybrids from the siskin (Fringilla spinus) and the canary, it is much the best plan, according to Bechstein, to place birds of the same tint together. Mr. Jenner Weir turned a female canary into his aviary, where there were male linnets, goldfinches, siskins, greenfinches, chaffinches, and other birds, in order to see which she would choose; but there never was any doubt, and the greenfinch carried the day. They paired and produced hybrid offspring.
The fact of the female preferring to pair with one male rather than with another of the same species is not so likely to excite attention, as when this occurs, as we have just seen, between distinct species. The former cases can best be observed with domesticated or confined birds; but these are often pampered by high feeding, and sometimes have their instincts vitiated to an extreme degree. Of this latter fact I could give sufficient proofs with pigeons, and especially with fowls, but they cannot be here related. Vitiated instincts may also account for some of the hybrid unions above mentioned; but in many of these cases the birds were allowed to range freely over large ponds, and there is no reason to suppose that they were unnaturally stimulated by high feeding.
With respect to birds in a state of nature, the first and most obvious supposition which will occur to every one is that the female at the proper season accepts the first male whom she may encounter; but she has at least the opportunity for exerting a choice, as she is almost invariably pursued by many males. Audubon--and we must remember that he spent a long life in prowling about the forests of the United States and observing the birds-- does not doubt that the female deliberately chooses her mate; thus, speaking of a woodpecker, he says the hen is followed by half-a-dozen gay suitors, who continue performing strange antics, "until a marked preference is shewn for one." The female of the red-winged starling (Agelaeus phoeniceus) is likewise pursued by several males, "until, becoming fatigued, she alights, receives their addresses, and soon makes a choice." He describes also how several male night-jars repeatedly plunge through the air with astonishing rapidity, suddenly turning, and thus making a singular noise; "but no sooner has the female made her choice than the other males are driven away." With one of the vultures (Cathartes aura) of the United States, parties of eight, ten, or more males and females assemble on fallen logs, "exhibiting the strongest desire to please mutually," and after many caresses, each male leads off his partner on the wing. Audubon likewise carefully observed the wild flocks of Canada geese (Anser canadensis), and gives a graphic description of their love-antics; he says that the birds which had been previously mated "renewed their courtship as early as the month of January, while the others would be contending or coquetting for hours every day, until all seemed satisfied with the choice they had made, after which, although they remained together, any person could easily perceive that they were careful to keep in pairs. I have observed also that the older the birds the shorter were the preliminaries of their courtship. The bachelors and old maids whether in regret, or not caring to be disturbed by the bustle, quietly moved aside and lay down at some distance from the rest." (20. Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. i. pp. 191, 349; vol. ii. pp. 42, 275; vol. iii. p. 2.) Many similar statements with respect to other birds could be cited from this same observer.
Turning now to domesticated and confined birds, I will commence by giving what little I have learnt respecting the courtship of fowls. I have received long letters on this subject from Messrs. Hewitt and Tegetmeier, and almost an essay from the late Mr. Brent. It will be admitted by every one that these gentlemen, so well known from their published works, are careful and experienced observers. They do not believe that the females prefer certain males on account of the beauty of their plumage; but some allowance must be made for the artificial state under which these birds have long been kept. Mr. Tegetmeier is convinced that a gamecock, though disfigured by being dubbed and with his hackles trimmed, would be accepted as readily as a male retaining all his natural ornaments. Mr. Brent, however, admits that the beauty of the male probably aids in exciting the female; and her acquiescence is necessary. Mr. Hewitt is convinced that the union is by no means left to mere chance, for the female almost invariably prefers the most vigorous, defiant, and mettlesome male; hence it is almost useless, as he remarks, "to attempt true breeding if a game- cock in good health and condition runs the locality, for almost every hen on leaving the roosting-place will resort to the game-cock, even though that bird may not actually drive away the male of her own variety." Under ordinary circumstances the males and females of the fowl seem to come to a mutual understanding by means of certain gestures, described to me by Mr. Brent. But hens will often avoid the officious attentions of young males. Old hens, and hens of a pugnacious disposition, as the same writer informs me, dislike strange males, and will not yield until well beaten into compliance. Ferguson, however, describes how a quarrelsome hen was subdued by the gentle courtship of a Shanghai cock. (21. 'Rare and Prize Poultry,' 1854, p. 27.)
There is reason to believe that pigeons of both sexes prefer pairing with birds of the same breed; and dovecot-pigeons dislike all the highly improved breeds. (22. 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. ii. p. 103.) Mr. Harrison Weir has lately heard from a trustworthy observer, who keeps blue pigeons, that these drive away all other coloured varieties, such as white, red, and yellow; and from another observer, that a female dun carrier could not, after repeated trials, be matched with a black male, but immediately paired with a dun. Again, Mr. Tegetmeier had a female blue turbit that obstinately refused to pair with two males of the same breed, which were successively shut up with her for weeks; but on being let out she would have immediately accepted the first blue dragon that offered. As she was a valuable bird, she was then shut up for many weeks with a silver (i.e., very pale blue) male, and at last mated with him. Nevertheless, as a general rule, colour appears to have little influence on the pairing of pigeons. Mr. Tegetmeier, at my request, stained some of his birds with magenta, but they were not much noticed by the others.
Female pigeons occasionally feel a strong antipathy towards certain males, without any assignable cause. Thus MM. Boitard and Corbie, whose experience extended over fortyfive years, state: "Quand une femelle eprouve de l'antipathie pour un male avec lequel on veut l'accoupler, malgre tous les feux de l'amour, malgre l'alpiste et le chenevis dont on la nourrit pour augmenter son ardeur, malgre un emprisonnement de six mois et meme d'un an, elle refuse constamment ses caresses; les avances empressees, les agaceries, les tournoiemens, les tendres roucoulemens, rien ne peut lui plaire ni l'emouvoir; gonflee, boudeuse, blottie dans un coin de sa prison, elle n'en sort que pour boire et manger, ou pour repousser avec une espece de rage des caresses devenues trop pressantes." (23. Boitard and Corbie, 'Les Pigeons,' etc., 1824, p. 12. Prosper Lucas ('Traite de l'Hered. Nat.' tom. ii. 1850, p. 296) has himself observed nearly similar facts with pigeons.) On the other hand, Mr. Harrison Weir has himself observed, and has heard from several breeders, that a female pigeon will occasionally take a strong fancy for a particular male, and will desert her own mate for him. Some females, according to another experienced observer, Riedel (24. Die Taubenzucht, 1824, s. 86.), are of a profligate disposition, and prefer almost any stranger to their own mate. Some amorous males, called by our English fanciers "gay birds," are so successful in their gallantries, that, as Mr. H. Weir informs me, they must be shut up on account of the mischief which they cause.
Wild turkeys in the United States, according to Audubon, "sometimes pay their addresses to the domesticated females, and are generally received by them with great pleasure." So that these females apparently prefer the wild to their own males. (25. 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. i. p. 13. See to the same effect, Dr. Bryant, in Allen's 'Mammals and Birds of Florida,' p. 344.)
Here is a more curious case. Sir R. Heron during many years kept an account of the habits of the peafowl, which he bred in large numbers. He states that "the hens have frequently great preference to a particular peafowl. They were all so fond of an old pied cock, that one year, when he was confined, though still in view, they were constantly assembled close to the trellice-walls of his prison, and would not suffer a japanned peacock to touch them. On his being let out in the autumn, the oldest of the hens instantly courted him and was successful in her courtship. The next year he was shut up in a stable, and then the hens all courted his rival." (26. 'Proceedings, Zoological Society,' 1835, p. 54. The japanned peacock is considered by Mr. Sclater as a distinct species, and has been named Pavo nigripennis; but the evidence seems to me to show that it is only a variety.) This rival was a japanned or black-winged peacock, to our eyes a more beautiful bird than the common kind.
Lichtenstein, who was a good observer and had excellent opportunities of observation at the Cape of Good Hope, assured Rudolphi that the female widow-bird (Chera progne) disowns the male when robbed of the long tail- feathers with which he is ornamented during the breeding-season. I presume that this observation must have been made on birds under confinement. (27. Rudolphi, 'Beitrage zur Anthropologie,' 1812, s. 184.) Here is an analogous case; Dr. Jaeger (28. 'Die Darwin'sche Theorie, und ihre Stellung zu Moral und Religion,' 1869, s. 59.), director of the Zoological Gardens of Vienna, states that a male silver-pheasant, who had been triumphant over all other males and was the accepted lover of the females, had his ornamental plumage spoiled. He was then immediately superseded by a rival, who got the upper hand and afterwards led the flock.
It is a remarkable fact, as shewing how important colour is in the courtship of birds, that Mr. Boardman, a well-known collector and observer of birds for many years in the Northern United States, has never in his large experience seen an albino paired with another bird; yet he has had opportunities of observing many albinos belonging to several species. (29. This statement is given by Mr. A. Leith Adams, in his 'Field and Forest Rambles,' 1873, p. 76, and accords with his own experience.) It can hardly be maintained that albinos in a state of nature are incapable of breeding, as they can be raised with the greatest facility under confinement. It appears, therefore, that we must attribute the fact that they do not pair to their rejection by their normally coloured comrades.
Female birds not only exert a choice, but in some few cases they court the male, or even fight together for his possession. Sir R. Heron states that with peafowl, the first advances are always made by the female; something of the same kind takes place, according to Audubon, with the older females of the wild turkey. With the capercailzie, the females flit round the male whilst he is parading at one of the places of assemblage, and solicit his attention. (30. In regard to peafowl, see Sir R. Heron, 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1835, p. 54, and the Rev. E.S. Dixon, 'Ornamental Poultry,' 1848, p. 8. For the turkey, Audubon, ibid. p. 4. For the capercailzie, Lloyd, 'Game Birds of Sweden,' 1867, p. 23.) We have seen that a tame wild-duck seduced an unwilling pintail drake after a long courtship. Mr. Bartlett believes that the Lophophorus, like many other gallinaceous birds, is naturally polygamous, but two females cannot be placed in the same cage with a male, as they fight so much together. The following instance of rivalry is more surprising as it relates to bullfinches, which usually pair for life. Mr. Jenner Weir introduced a dull-coloured and ugly female into his aviary, and she immediately attacked another mated female so unmercifully that the latter had to be separated. The new female did all the courtship, and was at last successful, for she paired with the male; but after a time she met with a just retribution, for, ceasing to be pugnacious, she was replaced by the old female, and the male then deserted his new and returned to his old love.
In all ordinary cases the male is so eager that he will accept any female, and does not, as far as we can judge, prefer one to the other; but, as we shall hereafter see, exceptions to this rule apparently occur in some few groups. With domesticated birds, I have heard of only one case of males shewing any preference for certain females, namely, that of the domestic cock, who, according to the high authority of Mr. Hewitt, prefers the younger to the older hens. On the other hand, in effecting hybrid unions between the male pheasant and common hens, Mr. Hewitt is convinced that the pheasant invariably prefers the older birds. He does not appear to be in the least influenced by their colour; but "is most capricious in his attachments" (31. Mr. Hewitt, quoted in Tegetmeier's 'Poultry Book,' 1866, p. 165.): from some inexplicable cause he shews the most determined aversion to certain hens, which no care on the part of the breeder can overcome. Mr. Hewitt informs me that some hens are quite unattractive even to the males of their own species, so that they may be kept with several cocks during a whole season, and not one egg out of forty or fifty will prove fertile. On the other hand, with the long-tailed duck (Harelda glacialis), "it has been remarked," says M. Ekstrom, "that certain females are much more courted than the rest. Frequently, indeed, one sees an individual surrounded by six or eight amorous males." Whether this statement is credible, I know not; but the native sportsmen shoot these females in order to stuff them as decoys. (32. Quoted in Lloyd's 'Game Birds of Sweden,' p. 345.)
With respect to female birds feeling a preference for particular males, we must bear in mind that we can judge of choice being exerted only by analogy. If an inhabitant of another planet were to behold a number of young rustics at a fair courting a pretty girl, and quarrelling about her like birds at one of their places of assemblage, he would, by the eagerness of the wooers to please her and to display their finery, infer that she had the power of choice. Now with birds the evidence stands thus: they have acute powers of observation, and they seem to have some taste for the beautiful both in colour and sound. It is certain that the females occasionally exhibit, from unknown causes, the strongest antipathies and preferences for particular males. When the sexes differ in colour or in other ornaments the males with rare exceptions are the more decorated, either permanently or temporarily during the breeding-season. They sedulously display their various ornaments, exert their voices, and perform strange antics in the presence of the females. Even well-armed males, who, it might be thought, would altogether depend for success on the law of battle, are in most cases highly ornamented; and their ornaments have been acquired at the expense of some loss of power. In other cases ornaments have been acquired, at the cost of increased risk from birds and beasts of prey. With various species many individuals of both sexes congregate at the same spot, and their courtship is a prolonged affair. There is even reason to suspect that the males and females within the same district do not always succeed in pleasing each other and pairing.
What then are we to conclude from these facts and considerations? Does the male parade his charms with so much pomp and rivalry for no purpose? Are we not justified in believing that the female exerts a choice, and that she receives the addresses of the male who pleases her most? It is not probable that she consciously deliberates; but she is most excited or attracted by the most beautiful, or melodious, or gallant males. Nor need it be supposed that the female studies each stripe or spot of colour; that the peahen, for instance, admires each detail in the gorgeous train of the peacock--she is probably struck only by the general effect. Nevertheless, after hearing how carefully the male Argus pheasant displays his elegant primary wing-feathers, and erects his ocellated plumes in the right position for their full effect; or again, how the male goldfinch alternately displays his gold-bespangled wings, we ought not to feel too sure that the female does not attend to each detail of beauty. We can judge, as already remarked, of choice being exerted, only from analogy; and the mental powers of birds do not differ fundamentally from ours. From these various considerations we may conclude that the pairing of birds is not left to chance; but that those males, which are best able by their various charms to please or excite the female, are under ordinary circumstances accepted. If this be admitted, there is not much difficulty in understanding how male birds have gradually acquired their ornamental characters. All animals present individual differences, and as man can modify his domesticated birds by selecting the individuals which appear to him the most beautiful, so the habitual or even occasional preference by the female of the more attractive males would almost certainly lead to their modification; and such modifications might in the course of time be augmented to almost any extent, compatible with the existence of the species.VARIABILITY OF BIRDS, AND ESPECIALLY OF THEIR SECONDARY SEXUAL CHARACTERS.
Variability and inheritance are the foundations for the work of selection. That domesticated birds have varied greatly, their variations being inherited, is certain. That birds in a state of nature have been modified into distinct races is now universally admitted. (33. According to Dr. Blasius ('Ibis,' vol. ii. 1860, p. 297), there are 425 indubitable species of birds which breed in Europe, besides sixty forms, which are frequently regarded as distinct species. Of the latter, Blasius thinks that only ten are really doubtful, and that the other fifty ought to be united with their nearest allies; but this shews that there must be a considerable amount of variation with some of our European birds. It is also an unsettled point with naturalists, whether several North American birds ought to be ranked as specifically distinct from the corresponding European species. So again many North American forms which until lately were named as distinct species, are now considered to be local races.) Variations may be divided into two classes; those which appear to our ignorance to arise spontaneously, and those which are directly related to the surrounding conditions, so that all or nearly all the individuals of the same species are similarly modified. Cases of the latter kind have recently been observed with care by Mr. J.A. Allen (34. 'Mammals and Birds of East Florida,' also an 'Ornithological Reconnaissance of Kansas,' etc. Notwithstanding the influence of climate on the colours of birds, it is difficult to account for the dull or dark tints of almost all the species inhabiting certain countries, for instance, the Galapagos Islands under the equator, the wide temperate plains of Patagonia, and, as it appears, Egypt (see Mr. Hartshorne in the 'American Naturalist,' 1873, p. 747). These countries are open, and afford little shelter to birds; but it seems doubtful whether the absence of brightly coloured species can be explained on the principle of protection, for on the Pampas, which are equally open, though covered by green grass, and where the birds would be equally exposed to danger, many brilliant and conspicuously coloured species are common. I have sometimes speculated whether the prevailing dull tints of the scenery in the above named countries may not have affected the appreciation of bright colours by the birds inhabiting them.), who shews that in the United States many species of birds gradually become more strongly coloured in proceeding southward, and more lightly coloured in proceeding westward to the arid plains of the interior. Both sexes seem generally to be affected in a like manner, but sometimes one sex more than the other. This result is not incompatible with the belief that the colours of birds are mainly due to the accumulation of successive variations through sexual selection; for even after the sexes have been greatly differentiated, climate might produce an equal effect on both sexes, or a greater effect on one sex than on the other, owing to some constitutional difference.
Individual differences between the members of the same species are admitted by every one to occur under a state of nature. Sudden and strongly marked variations are rare; it is also doubtful whether if beneficial they would often be preserved through selection and transmitted to succeeding generations. (35. 'Origin of Species' fifth edit. 1869, p.104. I had always perceived, that rare and strongly-marked deviations of structure, deserving to be called monstrosities, could seldom be preserved through natural selection, and that the preservation of even highly-beneficial variations would depend to a certain extent on chance. I had also fully appreciated the importance of mere individual differences, and this led me to insist so strongly on the importance of that unconscious form of selection by man, which follows from the preservation of the most valued individuals of each breed, without any intention on his part to modify the characters of the breed. But until I read an able article in the 'North British Review' (March 1867, p. 289, et seq.), which has been of more use to me than any other Review, I did not see how great the chances were against the preservation of variations, whether slight or strongly pronounced, occurring only in single individuals.) Nevertheless, it may be worth while to give the few cases which I have been able to collect, relating chiefly to colour,--simple albinism and melanism being excluded. Mr. Gould is well known to admit the existence of few varieties, for he esteems very slight differences as specific; yet he states (36. 'Introduction to the Trochlidae,' p. 102.) that near Bogota certain humming-birds belonging to the genus Cynanthus are divided into two or three races or varieties, which differ from each other in the colouring of the tail--"some having the whole of the feathers blue, while others have the eight central ones tipped with beautiful green." It does not appear that intermediate gradations have been observed in this or the following cases. In the males alone of one of the Australian parrakeets "the thighs in some are scarlet, in others grassgreen." In another parrakeet of the same country "some individuals have the band across the wing-coverts bright-yellow, while in others the same part is tinged with red. (37. Gould, 'Handbook to Birds of Australia,' vol. ii. pp. 32 and 68.) In the United States some few of the males of the scarlet tanager (Tanagra rubra) have "a beautiful transverse band of glowing red on the smaller wing- coverts" (38. Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' 1838, vol. iv. p. 389.); but this variation seems to be somewhat rare, so that its preservation through sexual selection would follow only under usually favourable circumstances. In Bengal the Honey buzzard (Pernis cristata) has either a small rudimental crest on its head, or none at all: so slight a difference, however, would not have been worth notice, had not this same species possessed in Southern India a wellmarked occipital crest formed of several graduated feathers." (39. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. i. p. 108; and Mr. Blyth, in 'Land and Water,' 1868, p. 381.)
The following case is in some respects more interesting. A pied variety of the raven, with the head, breast, abdomen, and parts of the wings and tail- feathers white, is confined to the Feroe Islands. It is not very rare there, for Graba saw during his visit from eight to ten living specimens. Although the characters of this variety are not quite constant, yet it has been named by several distinguished ornithologists as a distinct species. The fact of the pied birds being pursued and persecuted with much clamour by the other ravens of the island was the chief cause which led Brunnich to conclude that they were specifically distinct; but this is now known to be an error. (40. Graba, 'Tagebuch Reise nach Faro,' 1830, ss. 51-54. Macgillivray, 'History of British Birds,' vol. iii. p. 745, 'Ibis,' vol. v. 1863, p. 469.) This case seems analogous to that lately given of albino birds not pairing from being rejected by their comrades.
In various parts of the northern seas a remarkable variety of the common Guillemot (Uria troile) is found; and in Feroe, one out of every five birds, according to Graba's estimation, presents this variation. It is characterised (41. Graba, ibid. s. 54. Macgillivray, ibid. vol. v. p. 327.) by a pure white ring round the eye, with a curved narrow white line, an inch and a half in length, extending back from the ring. This conspicuous character has caused the bird to be ranked by several ornithologists as a distinct species under the name of U. lacrymans, but it is now known to be merely a variety. It often pairs with the common kind, yet intermediate gradations have never been seen; nor is this surprising, for variations which appear suddenly, are often, as I have elsewhere shewn (42. 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. ii. p. 92.), transmitted either unaltered or not at all. We thus see that two distinct forms of the same species may co-exist in the same district, and we cannot doubt that if the one had possessed any advantage over the other, it would soon have been multiplied to the exclusion of the latter. If, for instance, the male pied ravens, instead of being persecuted by their comrades, had been highly attractive (like the above pied peacock) to the black female ravens their numbers would have rapidly increased. And this would have been a case of sexual selection.
With respect to the slight individual differences which are common, in a greater or less degree, to all the members of the same species, we have every reason to believe that they are by far the most important for the work of selection. Secondary sexual characters are eminently liable to vary, both with animals in a state of nature and under domestication. (43. On these points see also 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. i. p. 253; vol ii. pp. 73, 75.) There is also reason to believe, as we have seen in our eighth chapter, that variations are more apt to occur in the male than in the female sex. All these contingencies are highly favourable for sexual selection. Whether characters thus acquired are transmitted to one sex or to both sexes, depends, as we shall see in the following chapter, on the form of inheritance which prevails.
It is sometimes difficult to form an opinion whether certain slight differences between the sexes of birds are simply the result of variability with sexually-limited inheritance, without the aid of sexual selection, or whether they have been augmented through this latter process. I do not here refer to the many instances where the male displays splendid colours or other ornaments, of which the female partakes to a slight degree; for these are almost certainly due to characters primarily acquired by the male having been more or less transferred to the female. But what are we to conclude with respect to certain birds in which, for instance, the eyes differ slightly in colour in the two sexes? (44. See, for instance, on the irides of a Podica and Gallicrex in 'Ibis,' vol. ii. 1860, p. 206; and vol. v. 1863, p. 426.) In some cases the eyes differ conspicuously; thus with the storks of the genus Xenorhynchus, those of the male are blackish- hazel, whilst those of the females are gamboge-yellow; with many hornbills (Buceros), as I hear from Mr. Blyth (45. See also Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. i. pp. 243-245.), the males have intense crimson eyes, and those of the females are white. In the Buceros bicornis, the hind margin of the casque and a stripe on the crest of the beak are black in the male, but not so in the female. Are we to suppose that these black marks and the crimson colour of the eyes have been preserved or augmented through sexual selection in the males? This is very doubtful; for Mr. Bartlett shewed me in the Zoological Gardens that the inside of the mouth of this Buceros is black in the male and flesh-coloured in the female; and their external appearance or beauty would not be thus affected. I observed in Chile (46. 'Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. "Beagle,"' 1841, p. 6.) that the iris in the condor, when about a year old, is dark-brown, but changes at maturity into yellowish-brown in the male, and into bright red in the female. The male has also a small, longitudinal, leaden-coloured, fleshy crest or comb. The comb of many gallinaceous birds is highly ornamental, and assumes vivid colours during the act of courtship; but what are we to think of the dull- coloured comb of the condor, which does not appear to us in the least ornamental? The same question may be asked in regard to various other characters, such as the knob on the base of the beak of the Chinese goose (Anser cygnoides), which is much larger in the male than in the female. No certain answer can be given to these questions; but we ought to be cautious in assuming that knobs and various fleshy appendages cannot be attractive to the female, when we remember that with savage races of man various hideous deformities-deep scars on the face with the flesh raised into protuberances, the septum of the nose pierced by sticks or bones, holes in the ears and lips stretched widely open--are all admired as ornamental.
Whether or not unimportant differences between the sexes, such as those just specified, have been preserved through sexual selection, these differences, as well as all others, must primarily depend on the laws of variation. On the principle of correlated development, the plumage often varies on different parts of the body, or over the whole body, in the same manner. We see this well illustrated in certain breeds of the fowl. In all the breeds the feathers on the neck and loins of the males are elongated, and are called hackles; now when both sexes acquire a top-knot, which is a new character in the genus, the feathers on the head of the male become hackle-shaped, evidently on the principle of correlation; whilst those on the head of the female are of the ordinary shape. The colour also of the hackles forming the top-knot of the male, is often correlated with that of the hackles on the neck and loins, as may be seen by comparing these feathers in the golden and silver-spangled Polish, the Houdans, and Creve-coeur breeds. In some natural species we may observe exactly the same correlation in the colours of these same feathers, as in the males of the splendid Gold and Amherst pheasants.
The structure of each individual feather generally causes any change in its colouring to be symmetrical; we see this in the various laced, spangled, and pencilled breeds of the fowl; and on the principle of correlation the feathers over the whole body are often coloured in the same manner. We are thus enabled without much trouble to rear breeds with their plumage marked almost as symmetrically as in natural species. In laced and spangled fowls the coloured margins of the feathers are abruptly defined; but in a mongrel raised by me from a black Spanish cock glossed with green, and a white game-hen, all the feathers were greenish-black, excepting towards their extremities, which were yellowishwhite; but between the white extremities and the black bases, there was on each feather a symmetrical, curved zone of dark-brown. In some instances the shaft of the feather determines the distribution of the tints; thus with the body-feathers of a mongrel from the same black Spanish cock and a silver-spangled Polish hen, the shaft, together with a narrow space on each side, was greenish-black, and this was surrounded by a regular zone of dark-brown, edged with brownish-white. In these cases we have feathers symmetrically shaded, like those which give so much elegance to the plumage of many natural species. I have also noticed a variety of the common pigeon with the wing-bars symmetrically zoned with three bright shades, instead of being simply black on a slatyblue ground, as in the parent-species.
In many groups of birds the plumage is differently coloured in the several species, yet certain spots, marks, or stripes are retained by all. Analogous cases occur with the breeds of the pigeon, which usually retain the two wing-bars, though they may be coloured red, yellow, white, black, or blue, the rest of the plumage being of some wholly different tint. Here is a more curious case, in which certain marks are retained, though coloured in a manner almost exactly the opposite of what is natural; the aboriginal pigeon has a blue tail, with the terminal halves of the outer webs of the two outer tail feathers white; now there is a sub-variety having a white instead of a blue tail, with precisely that part black which is white in the parent-species. (47. Bechstein, 'Naturgeschichte Deutschlands,' B. iv. 1795, s. 31, on a sub-variety of the Monck pigeon.)FORMATION AND VARIABILITY OF THE OCELLI OR EYE-LIKE SPOTS ON THE PLUMAGE OF BIRDS.
[Fig. 53. Cyllo leda, Linn., from a drawing by Mr. Trimen, shewing the extreme range of variation in the ocelli. A. Specimen, from Mauritius, upper surface of fore-wing. A1. Specimen, from Natal, ditto. B. Specimen, from Java, upper surface of hind-wing. B1. Specimen, from Mauritius, ditto.]
As no ornaments are more beautiful than the ocelli on the feathers of various birds, on the hairy coats of some mammals, on the scales of reptiles and fishes, on the skin of amphibians, on the wings of many Lepidoptera and other insects, they deserve to be especially noticed. An ocellus consists of a spot within a ring of another colour, like the pupil within the iris, but the central spot is often surrounded by additional concentric zones. The ocelli on the tail-coverts of the peacock offer a familiar example, as well as those on the wings of the peacock-butterfly (Vanessa). Mr. Trimen has given me a description of a S. African moth (Gynanisa isis), allied to our Emperor moth, in which a magnificent ocellus occupies nearly the whole surface of each hinder wing; it consists of a black centre, including a semi-transparent crescent-shaped mark, surrounded by successive, ochre-yellow, black, ochre-yellow, pink, white, pink, brown, and whitish zones. Although we do not know the steps by which these wonderfully beautiful and complex ornaments have been developed, the process has probably been a simple one, at least with insects; for, as Mr. Trimen writes to me, "no characters of mere marking or coloration are so unstable in the Lepidoptera as the ocelli, both in number and size." Mr. Wallace, who first called my attention to this subject, shewed me a series of specimens of our common meadow-brown butterfly (Hipparchia janira) exhibiting numerous gradations from a simple minute black spot to an elegantly-shaded ocellus. In a S. African butterfly (Cyllo leda, Linn.), belonging to the same family, the ocelli are even still more variable. In some specimens (A, Fig. 53) large spaces on the upper surface of the wings are coloured black, and include irregular white marks; and from this state a complete gradation can be traced into a tolerably perfect ocellus (A1), and this results from the contraction of the irregular blotches of colour. In another series of specimens a gradation can be followed from excessively minute white dots, surrounded by a scarcely visible black line (B), into perfectly symmetrical and large ocelli (B1). (48. This woodcut has been engraved from a beautiful drawing, most kindly made for me by Mr. Trimen; see also his description of the wonderful amount of variation in the coloration and shape of the wings of this butterfly, in his 'Rhopalocera Africae Australis,' p. 186.) In cases like these, the development of a perfect ocellus does not require a long course of variation and selection.
With birds and many other animals, it seems to follow from the comparison of allied species that circular spots are often generated by the breaking up and contraction of stripes. In the Tragopan pheasant faint white lines in the female represent the beautiful white spots in the male (49. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. iii. p. 517.); and something of the same kind may be observed in the two sexes of the Argus pheasant. However this may be, appearances strongly favour the belief that on the one hand, a dark spot is often formed by the colouring matter being drawn towards a central point from a surrounding zone, which latter is thus rendered lighter; and, on the other hand, that a white spot is often formed by the colour being driven away from a central point, so that it accumulates in a surrounding darker zone. In either case an ocellus is the result. The colouring matter seems to be a nearly constant quantity, but is redistributed, either centripetally or centrifugally. The feathers of the common guinea-fowl offer a good instance of white spots surrounded by darker zones; and wherever the white spots are large and stand near each other, the surrounding dark zones become confluent. In the same wing-feather of the Argus pheasant dark spots may be seen surrounded by a pale zone, and white spots by a dark zone. Thus the formation of an ocellus in its most elementary state appears to be a simple affair. By what further steps the more complex ocelli, which are surrounded by many successive zones of colour, have been generated, I will not pretend to say. But the zoned feathers of the mongrels from differently coloured fowls, and the extraordinary variability of the ocelli on many Lepidoptera, lead us to conclude that their formation is not a complex process, but depends on some slight and graduated change in the nature of the adjoining tissues.GRADATION OF SECONDARY SEXUAL CHARACTERS.
[Fig. 54. Feather of Peacock, about two-thirds of natural size, drawn by Mr. Ford. The transparent zone is represented by the outermost white zone, confined to the upper end of the disc.]
Cases of gradation are important, as shewing us that highly complex ornaments may be acquired by small successive steps. In order to discover the actual steps by which the male of any existing bird has acquired his magnificent colours or other ornaments, we ought to behold the long line of his extinct progenitors; but this is obviously impossible. We may, however, generally gain a clue by comparing all the species of the same group, if it be a large one; for some of them will probably retain, at least partially, traces of their former characters. Instead of entering on tedious details respecting various groups, in which striking instances of gradation could be given, it seems the best plan to take one or two strongly marked cases, for instance that of the peacock, in order to see if light can be thrown on the steps by which this bird bas become so splendidly decorated. The peacock is chiefly remarkable from the extraordinary length of his tail-coverts; the tail itself not being much elongated. The barbs along nearly the whole length of these feathers stand separate or are decomposed; but this is the case with the feathers of many species, and with some varieties of the domestic fowl and pigeon. The barbs coalesce towards the extremity of the shaft forming the oval disc or ocellus, which is certainly one of the most beautiful objects in the world. It consists of an iridescent, intensely blue, indented centre, surrounded by a rich green zone, this by a broad coppery-brown zone, and this by five other narrow zones of slightly different iridescent shades. A trifling character in the disc deserves notice; the barbs, for a space along one of the concentric zones are more or less destitute of their barbules, so that a part of the disc is surrounded by an almost transparent zone, which gives it a highly finished aspect. But I have elsewhere described (50. 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. i. p. 254.) an exactly analogous variation in the hackles of a sub-variety of the game- cock, in which the tips, having a metallic lustre, "are separated from the lower part of the feather by a symmetrically shaped transparent zone, composed of the naked portions of the barbs." The lower margin or base of the dark-blue centre of the ocellus is deeply indented on the line of the shaft. The surrounding zones likewise shew traces, as may be seen in the drawing (Fig. 54), of indentations, or rather breaks. These indentations are common to the Indian and Javan peacocks (Pavo cristatus and P. muticus); and they seem to deserve particular attention, as probably connected with the development of the ocellus; but for a long time I could not conjecture their meaning.
If we admit the principle of gradual evolution, there must formerly have existed many species which presented every successive step between the wonderfully elongated tailcoverts of the peacock and the short tail- coverts of all ordinary birds; and again between the magnificent ocelli of the former, and the simpler ocelli or mere coloured spots on other birds; and so with all the other characters of the peacock. Let us look to the allied Gallinaceae for any still-existing gradations. The species and sub- species of Polyplectron inhabit countries adjacent to the native land of the peacock; and they so far resemble this bird that they are sometimes called peacock-pheasants. I am also informed by Mr. Bartlett that they resemble the peacock in their voice and in some of their habits. During the spring the males, as previously described, strut about before the comparatively plaincoloured females, expanding and erecting their tail and wing-feathers, which are ornamented with numerous ocelli. I request the reader to turn back to the drawing (Fig. 51) of a Polyplectron; In P. napoleonis the ocelli are confined to the tail, and the back is of a rich metallic blue; in which respects this species approaches the Java peacock. P. hardwickii possesses a peculiar top-knot, which is also somewhat like that of the Java peacock. In all the species the ocelli on the wings and tail are either circular or oval, and consist of a beautiful, iridescent, greenish-blue or greenish-purple disc, with a black border. This border in P. chinquis shades into brown, edged with cream colour, so that the ocellus is here surrounded with variously shaded, though not bright, concentric zones. The unusual length of the tail-coverts is another remarkable character in Polyplectron; for in some of the species they are half, and in others two-thirds as long as the true tailfeathers. The tail-coverts are ocellated as in the peacock. Thus the several species of Polyplectron manifestly make a graduated approach to the peacock in the length of their tail-coverts, in the zoning of the ocelli, and in some other characters.[Fig. 55. Part of a tail-covert of Polyplectron chinquis, with the two ocelli of natural size. Fig. 56. Part of a tail-covert of Polyplectron malaccense, with the two ocelli, partially confluent, of natural size.]
Notwithstanding this approach, the first species of Polyplectron which I examined almost made me give up the search; for I found not only that the true tail-feathers, which in the peacock are quite plain, were ornamented with ocelli, but that the ocelli on all the feathers differed fundamentally from those of the peacock, in there being two on the same feather (Fig. 55), one on each side of the shaft. Hence I concluded that the early progenitors of the peacock could not have resembled a Polyplectron. But on continuing my search, I observed that in some of the species the two ocelli stood very near each other; that in the tail-feathers of P. hardwickii they touched each other; and, finally, that on the tail-coverts of this same species as well as of P. malaccense (Fig. 56) they were actually confluent. As the central part alone is confluent, an indentation is left at both the upper and lower ends; and the surrounding coloured zones are likewise indented. A single ocellus is thus formed on each tail-covert, though still plainly betraying its double origin. These confluent ocelli differ from the single ocelli of the peacock in having an indentation at both ends, instead of only at the lower or basal end. The explanation, however, of this difference is not difficult; in some species of Polyplectron the two oval ocelli on the same feather stand parallel to each other; in other species (as in P. chinquis) they converge towards one end; now the partial confluence of two convergent ocelli would manifestly leave a much deeper indentation at the divergent than at the convergent end. It is also manifest that if the convergence were strongly pronounced and the confluence complete, the indentation at the convergent end would tend to disappear.
The tail-feathers in both species of the peacock are entirely destitute of ocelli, and this apparently is related to their being covered up and concealed by the long tail-coverts. In this respect they differ remarkably from the tail-feathers of Polyplectron, which in most of the species are ornamented with larger ocelli than those on the tail-coverts. Hence I was led carefully to examine the tail-feathers of the several species, in order to discover whether their ocelli shewed any tendency to disappear; and to my great satisfaction, this appeared to be so. The central tail-feathers of P. napoleonis have the two ocelli on each side of the shaft perfectly developed; but the inner ocellus becomes less and less conspicuous on the more exterior tail-feathers, until a mere shadow or rudiment is left on the inner side of the outermost feather. Again, in P. malaccense, the ocelli on the tailcoverts are, as we have seen, confluent; and these feathers are of unusual length, being two-thirds of the length of the tail-feathers, so that in both these respects they approach the tail-coverts of the peacock. Now in P. malaccense, the two central tail-feathers alone are ornamented, each with two brightly-coloured ocelli, the inner ocellus having completely disappeared from all the other tail-feathers. Consequently the tail- coverts and tail-feathers of this species of Polyplectron make a near approach in structure and ornamentation to the corresponding feathers of the peacock.
As far, then, as gradation throws light on the steps by which the magnificent train of the peacock has been acquired, hardly anything more is needed. If we picture to ourselves a progenitor of the peacock in an almost exactly intermediate condition between the existing peacock, with his enormously elongated tail-coverts, ornamented with single ocelli, and an ordinary gallinaceous bird with short tail-coverts, merely spotted with some colour, we shall see a bird allied to Polyplectron--that is, with tail-coverts, capable of erection and expansion, ornamented with two partially confluent ocelli, and long enough almost to conceal the tail- feathers, the latter having already partially lost their ocelli. The indentation of the central disc and of the surrounding zones of the ocellus, in both species of peacock, speaks plainly in favour of this view, and is otherwise inexplicable. The males of Polyplectron are no doubt beautiful birds, but their beauty, when viewed from a little distance, cannot be compared with that of the peacock. Many female progenitors of the peacock must, during a long line of descent, have appreciated this superiority; for they have unconsciously, by the continued preference for the most beautiful males, rendered the peacock the most splendid of living birds.
ARGUS PHEASANT. Another excellent case for investigation is offered by the ocelli on the wing-feathers of the Argus pheasant, which are shaded in so wonderful a manner as to resemble balls lying loose within sockets, and consequently differ from ordinary ocelli. No one, I presume, will attribute the shading, which has excited the admiration of many experienced artists, to chance--to the fortuitous concourse of atoms of colouring matter. That these ornaments should have been formed through the selection of many successive variations, not one of which was originally intended to produce the ball-and-socket effect, seems as incredible as that one of Raphael's Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of paint made by a long succession of young artists, not one of whom intended at first to draw the human figure. In order to discover how the ocelli have been developed, we cannot look to a long line of progenitors, nor to many closely-allied forms, for such do not now exist. But fortunately the several feathers on the wing suffice to give us a clue to the problem, and they prove to demonstration that a gradation is at least possible from a mere spot to a finished ball-and-socket ocellus.
[Fig. 57. Part of secondary wing-feather of Argus pheasant, shewing two perfect ocelli, a and b. A, B, C, D, etc., are dark stripes running obliquely down, each to an ocellus. [Much of the web on both sides, especially to the left of the shaft, has been cut off.]
Fig.59. Portion of one of the secondary wing-feathers near to the body, shewing the socalled elliptic ornaments. The right-hand figure is given merely as a diagram for the sake of the letters of reference. A, B, C, D, etc. Rows of spots running down to and forming the elliptic ornaments. b. Lowest spot or mark in row B. c. The next succeeding spot or mark in the same row. d. Apparently a broken prolongation of the spot c. in the same row B.]
The wing-feathers, bearing the ocelli, are covered with dark stripes (Fig. 57) or with rows of dark spots (Fig. 59), each stripe or row of spots running obliquely down the outer side of the shaft to one of the ocelli. The spots are generally elongated in a line transverse to the row in which they stand. They often become confluent either in the line of the row-and then they form a longitudinal stripe--or transversely, that is, with the spots in the adjoining rows, and then they form transverse stripes. A spot sometimes breaks up into smaller spots, which still stand in their proper places.
It will be convenient first to describe a perfect ball-and-socket ocellus. This consists of an intensely black circular ring, surrounding a space shaded so as exactly to resemble a ball. The figure here given has been admirably drawn by Mr. Ford and well engraved, but a woodcut cannot exhibit the exquisite shading of the original. The ring is almost always slightly broken or interrupted (Fig. 57) at a point in the upper half, a little to the right of and above the white shade on the enclosed ball; it is also sometimes broken towards the base on the right hand. These little breaks have an important meaning. The ring is always much thickened, with the edges ill-defined towards the left-hand upper corner, the feather being held erect, in the position in which it is here drawn. Beneath this thickened part there is on the surface of the ball an oblique almost pure- white mark, which shades off downwards into a pale-leaden hue, and this into yellowish and brown tints, which insensibly become darker and darker towards the lower part of the ball. It is this shading which gives so admirably the effect of light shining on a convex surface. If one of the balls be examined, it will be seen that the lower part is of a brown tint and is indistinctly separated by a curved oblique line from the upper part, which is yellower and more leaden; this curved oblique line runs at right angles to the longer axis of the white patch of light, and indeed of all the shading; but this difference in colour, which cannot of course be shewn in the woodcut, does not in the least interfere with the perfect shading of the ball. It should be particularly observed that each ocellus stands in obvious connection either with a dark stripe, or with a longitudinal row of dark spots, for both occur indifferently on the same feather. Thus in Fig. 57 stripe A runs to ocellus a; B runs to ocellus b; stripe C is broken in the upper part, and runs down to the next succeeding ocellus, not represented in the woodcut; D to the next lower one, and so with the stripes E and F. Lastly, the several ocelli are separated from each other by a pale surface bearing irregular black marks.[Fig. 58. Basal part of the secondary wing feather, nearest to the body.]
I will next describe the other extreme of the series, namely, the first trace of an ocellus. The short secondary wing-feather (Fig. 58), nearest to the body, is marked like the other feathers, with oblique, longitudinal, rather irregular, rows of very dark spots. The basal spot, or that nearest the shaft, in the five lower rows (excluding the lowest one) is a little larger than the other spots of the same row, and a little more elongated in a transverse direction. It differs also from the other spots by being bordered on its upper side with some dull fulvous shading. But this spot is not in any way more remarkable than those on the plumage of many birds, and might easily be overlooked. The next higher spot does not differ at all from the upper ones in the same row. The larger basal spots occupy exactly the same relative position on these feathers as do the perfect ocelli on the longer wing-feathers.
By looking to the next two or three succeeding wing-feathers, an absolutely insensible gradation can be traced from one of the last-described basal spots, together with the next higher one in the same row, to a curious ornament, which cannot be called an ocellus, and which I will name, from the want of a better term, an "elliptic ornament." These are shewn in the accompanying figure (Fig. 59). We here see several oblique rows, A, B, C, D, etc. (see the lettered diagram on the right hand), of dark spots of the usual character. Each row of spots runs down to and is connected with one of the elliptic ornaments, in exactly the same manner as each stripe in Fig. 57 runs down to and is connected with one of the ball-and-socket ocelli. Looking to any one row, for instance, B, in Fig. 59, the lowest mark (b) is thicker and considerably longer than the upper spots, and has its left extremity pointed and curved upwards. This black mark is abruptly bordered on its upper side by a rather broad space of richly shaded tints, beginning with a narrow brown zone, which passes into orange, and this into a pale leaden tint, with the end towards the shaft much paler. These shaded tints together fill up the whole inner space of the elliptic ornament. The mark (b) corresponds in every respect with the basal shaded spot of the simple feather described in the last paragraph (Fig. 58), but is more highly developed and more brightly coloured. Above and to the right of this spot (b, Fig. 59), with its bright shading, there is a long narrow, black mark (c), belonging to the same row, and which is arched a little downwards so as to face (b). This mark is sometimes broken into two portions. It is also narrowly edged on the lower side with a fulvous tint. To the left of and above c, in the same oblique direction, but always more or less distinct from it, there is another black mark (d). This mark is generally sub-triangular and irregular in shape, but in the one lettered in the diagram it is unusually narrow, elongated, and regular. It apparently consists of a lateral and broken prolongation of the mark (c), together with its confluence with a broken and prolonged part of the next spot above; but I do not feel sure of this. These three marks, b, c, and d, with the intervening bright shades, form together the so-called elliptic ornament. These ornaments placed parallel to the shaft, manifestly correspond in position with the ball-and-socket ocelli. Their extremely elegant appearance cannot be appreciated in the drawing, as the orange and leaden tints, contrasting so well with the black marks, cannot be shewn.[Fig. 60. An ocellus in an intermediate condition between the elliptic ornament and the perfect ball-and-socket ocellus.]
Between one of the elliptic ornaments and a perfect ball-and-socket ocellus, the gradation is so perfect that it is scarcely possible to decide when the latter term ought to be used. The passage from the one into the other is effected by the elongation and greater curvature in opposite directions of the lower black mark (b, Fig. 59), and more especially of the upper one (c), together with the contraction of the elongated sub- triangular or narrow mark (d), so that at last these three marks become confluent, forming an irregular elliptic ring. This ring is gradually rendered more and more circular and regular, increasing at the same time in diameter. I have here given a drawing (Fig. 60) of the natural size of an ocellus not as yet quite perfect. The lower part of the black ring is much more curved than is the lower mark in the elliptic ornament (b, Fig. 59). The upper part of the ring consists of two or three separate portions; and there is only a trace of the thickening of the portion which forms the black mark above the white shade. This white shade itself is not as yet much concentrated; and beneath it the surface is brighter coloured than in a perfect ball-and-socket ocellus. Even in the most perfect ocelli traces of the junction of three or four elongated black marks, by which the ring has been formed, may often be detected. The irregular sub-triangular or narrow mark (d, Fig. 59), manifestly forms, by its contraction and equalisation, the thickened portion of the ring above the white shade on a perfect ball-and-socket ocellus. The lower part of the ring is invariably a little thicker than the other parts (Fig. 57), and this follows from the lower black mark of the elliptic ornament (b, Fig. 59) having originally been thicker than the upper mark (c). Every step can be followed in the process of confluence and modification; and the black ring which surrounds the ball of the ocellus is unquestionably formed by the union and modification of the three black marks, b, c, d, of the elliptic ornament. The irregular zigzag black marks between the successive ocelli (Fig. 57) are plainly due to the breaking up of the somewhat more regular but similar marks between the elliptic ornaments.
The successive steps in the shading of the ball-and-socket ocelli can be followed out with equal clearness. The brown, orange, and pale-leadened narrow zones, which border the lower black mark of the elliptic ornament, can be seen gradually to become more and more softened and shaded into each other, with the upper lighter part towards the lefthand corner rendered still lighter, so as to become almost white, and at the same time more contracted. But even in the most perfect ball-and-socket ocelli a slight difference in the tints, though not in the shading, between the upper and lower parts of the ball can be perceived, as before noticed; and the line of separation is oblique, in the same direction as the bright coloured shades of the elliptic ornaments. Thus almost every minute detail in the shape and colouring of the ball-and-socket ocelli can be shewn to follow from gradual changes in the elliptic ornaments; and the development of the latter can be traced by equally small steps from the union of two almost simple spots, the lower one (Fig. 58) having some dull fulvous shading on its upper side.
[Fig. 61. Portion near summit of one of the secondary wing-feathers, bearing perfect balland-socket ocelli. a. Ornamented upper part. b. Uppermost, imperfect ball-and-socket ocellus. (The shading above the white mark on the summit of the ocellus is here a little too dark.) c. Perfect ocellus.]
The extremities of the longer secondary feathers which bear the perfect ball-and-socket ocelli, are peculiarly ornamented (Fig. 61). The oblique longitudinal stripes suddenly cease upwards and become confused; and above this limit the whole upper end of the feather (a) is covered with white dots, surrounded by little black rings, standing on a dark ground. The oblique stripe belonging to the uppermost ocellus (b) is barely represented by a very short irregular black mark with the usual, curved, transverse base. As this stripe is thus abruptly cut off, we can perhaps understand from what has gone before, how it is that the upper thickened part of the ring is here absent; for, as before stated, this thickened part apparently stands in some relation with a broken prolongation from the next higher spot. From the absence of the upper and thickened part of the ring, the uppermost ocellus, though perfect in all other respects, appears as if its top had been obliquely sliced off. It would, I think, perplex any one, who believes that the plumage of the Argus pheasant was created as we now see it, to account for the imperfect condition of the uppermost ocellus. I should add that on the secondary wing-feather farthest from the body all the ocelli are smaller and less perfect than on the other feathers, and have the upper part of the ring deficient, as in the case just mentioned. The imperfection here seems to be connected with the fact that the spots on this feather shew less tendency than usual to become confluent into stripes; they are, on the contrary, often broken up into smaller spots, so that two or three rows run down to the same ocellus.
There still remains another very curious point, first observed by Mr. T.W. Wood (51. The 'Field,' May 28, 1870.), which deserves attention. In a photograph, given me by Mr. Ward, of a specimen mounted as in the act of display, it may be seen that on the feathers which are held perpendicularly, the white marks on the ocelli, representing light reflected from a convex surface, are at the upper or further end, that is, are directed upwards; and the bird whilst displaying himself on the ground would naturally be illuminated from above. But here comes the curious point; the outer feathers are held almost horizontally, and their ocelli ought likewise to appear as if illuminated from above, and consequently the white marks ought to be placed on the upper sides of the ocelli; and, wonderful as is the fact, they are thus placed! Hence the ocelli on the several feathers, though occupying very different positions with respect to the light, all appear as if illuminated from above, just as an artist would have shaded them. Nevertheless they are not illuminated from strictly the same point as they ought to be; for the white marks on the ocelli of the feathers which are held almost horizontally, are placed rather too much towards the further end; that is, they are not sufficiently lateral. We have, however, no right to expect absolute perfection in a part rendered ornamental through sexual selection, any more than we have in a part modified through natural selection for real use; for instance, in that wondrous organ the human eye. And we know what Helmholtz, the highest authority in Europe on the subject, has said about the human eye; that if an optician had sold him an instrument so carelessly made, he would have thought himself fully justified in returning it. (52. 'Popular Lectures on Scientific Subjects,' Eng. trans. 1873, pp. 219, 227, 269, 390.)
We have now seen that a perfect series can be followed, from simple spots to the wonderful ball-and-socket ornaments. Mr. Gould, who kindly gave me some of these feathers, fully agrees with me in the completeness of the gradation. It is obvious that the stages in development exhibited by the feathers on the same bird do not at all necessarily shew us the steps passed through by the extinct progenitors of the species; but they probably give us the clue to the actual steps, and they at least prove to demonstration that a gradation is possible. Bearing in mind how carefully the male Argus pheasant displays his plumes before the female, as well as the many facts rendering it probable that female birds prefer the more attractive males, no one who admits the agency of sexual selection in any case will deny that a simple dark spot with some fulvous shading might be converted, through the approximation and modification of two adjoining spots, together with some slight increase of colour, into one of the so- called elliptic ornaments. These latter ornaments have been shewn to many persons, and all have admitted that they are beautiful, some thinking them even more so than the ball-and-socket ocelli. As the secondary plumes became lengthened through sexual selection, and as the elliptic ornaments increased in diameter, their colours apparently became less bright; and then the ornamentation of the plumes had to be gained by an improvement in the pattern and shading; and this process was carried on until the wonderful ball-and-socket ocelli were finally developed. Thus we can understand--and in no other way as it seems to me--the present condition and origin of the ornaments on the wing-feathers of the Argus pheasant.
From the light afforded by the principle of gradation--from what we know of the laws of variation--from the changes which have taken place in many of our domesticated birds-and, lastly, from the character (as we shall hereafter see more clearly) of the immature plumage of young birds--we can sometimes indicate, with a certain amount of confidence, the probable steps by which the males have acquired their brilliant plumage and various ornaments; yet in many cases we are involved in complete darkness. Mr. Gould several years ago pointed out to me a humming-bird, the Urosticte benjamini, remarkable for the curious differences between the sexes. The male, besides a splendid gorget, has greenish-black tail-feathers, with the four CENTRAL ones tipped with white; in the female, as with most of the allied species, the three OUTER tail-feathers on each side are tipped with white, so that the male has the four central, whilst the female has the six exterior feathers ornamented with white tips. What makes the case more curious is that, although the colouring of the tail differs remarkably in both sexes of many kinds of humming-birds, Mr. Gould does not know a single species, besides the Urosticte, in which the male has the four central feathers tipped with white.
The Duke of Argyll, in commenting on this case (53. 'The Reign of Law,' 1867, p. 247.), passes over sexual selection, and asks, "What explanation does the law of natural selection give of such specific varieties as these?" He answers "none whatever"; and I quite agree with him. But can this be so confidently said of sexual selection? Seeing in how many ways the tail-feathers of humming-birds differ, why should not the four central feathers have varied in this one species alone, so as to have acquired white tips? The variations may have been gradual, or somewhat abrupt as in the case recently given of the humming-birds near Bogota, in which certain individuals alone have the "central tailfeathers tipped with beautiful green." In the female of the Urosticte I noticed extremely minute or rudimental white tips to the two outer of the four central black tail- feathers; so that here we have an indication of change of some kind in the plumage of this species. If we grant the possibility of the central tail- feathers of the male varying in whiteness, there is nothing strange in such variations having been sexually selected. The white tips, together with the small white ear-tufts, certainly add, as the Duke of Argyll admits, to the beauty of the male; and whiteness is apparently appreciated by other birds, as may be inferred from such cases as the snow-white male of the Bell-bird. The statement made by Sir R. Heron should not be forgotten, namely, that his peahens, when debarred from access to the pied peacock, would not unite with any other male, and during that season produced no offspring. Nor is it strange that variations in the tail-feathers of the Urosticte should have been specially selected for the sake of ornament, for the next succeeding genus in the family takes its name of Metallura from the splendour of these feathers. We have, moreover, good evidence that humming-birds take especial pains in displaying their tail-feathers; Mr. Belt (54. 'The Naturalist in Nicaragua,' 1874, p. 112.), after describing the beauty of the Florisuga mellivora, says, "I have seen the female sitting on a branch, and two males displaying their charms in front of her. One would shoot up like a rocket, then suddenly expanding the snow-white tail, like an inverted parachute, slowly descend in front of her, turning round gradually to shew off back and front...The expanded white tail covered more space than all the rest of the bird, and was evidently the grand feature in the performance. Whilst one male was descending, the other would shoot up and come slowly down expanded. The entertainment would end in a fight between the two performers; but whether the most beautiful or the most pugnacious was the accepted suitor, I know not." Mr. Gould, after describing the peculiar plumage of the Urosticte, adds, "that ornament and variety is the sole object, I have myself but little doubt." (55. 'Introduction to the Trochilidae,' 1861, p. 110.) If this be admitted, we can perceive that the males which during former times were decked in the most elegant and novel manner would have gained an advantage, not in the ordinary struggle for life, but in rivalry with other males, and would have left a larger number of offspring to inherit their newly- acquired beauty.
Discussion as to why the males alone of some species, and both sexes of others, are brightly coloured--On sexually-limited inheritance, as applied to various structures and to brightly-coloured plumage--Nidification in relation to colour--Loss of nuptial plumage during the winter.
We have in this chapter to consider why the females of many birds have not acquired the same ornaments as the male; and why, on the other hand, both sexes of many other birds are equally, or almost equally, ornamented? In the following chapter we shall consider the few cases in which the female is more conspicuously coloured than the male.
In my 'Origin of Species' (1. Fourth edition, 1866, p. 241.) I briefly suggested that the long tail of the peacock would be inconvenient and the conspicuous black colour of the male capercailzie dangerous, to the female during the period of incubation: and consequently that the transmission of these characters from the male to the female offspring had been checked through natural selection. I still think that this may have occurred in some few instances: but after mature reflection on all the facts which I have been able to collect, I am now inclined to believe that when the sexes differ, the successive variations have generally been from the first limited in their transmission to the same sex in which they first arose. Since my remarks appeared, the subject of sexual coloration has been discussed in some very interesting papers by Mr. Wallace (2. 'Westminster Review,' July 1867. 'Journal of Travel,' vol. i. 1868, p. 73.), who believes that in almost all cases the successive variations tended at first to be transmitted equally to both sexes; but that the female was saved, through natural selection, from acquiring the conspicuous colours of the male, owing to the danger which she would thus have incurred during incubation.
This view necessitates a tedious discussion on a difficult point, namely, whether the transmission of a character, which is at first inherited by both sexes can be subsequently limited in its transmission to one sex alone by means of natural selection. We must bear in mind, as shewn in the preliminary chapter on sexual selection, that characters which are limited in their development to one sex are always latent in the other. An imaginary illustration will best aid us in seeing the difficulty of the case; we may suppose that a fancier wished to make a breed of pigeons, in which the males alone should be coloured of a pale blue, whilst the females retained their former slaty tint. As with pigeons characters of all kinds are usually transmitted to both sexes equally, the fancier would have to try to convert this latter form of inheritance into sexually-limited transmission. All that he could do would be to persevere in selecting every male pigeon which was in the least degree of a paler blue; and the natural result of this process, if steadily carried on for a long time, and if the pale variations were strongly inherited or often recurred, would be to make his whole stock of a lighter blue. But our fancier would be compelled to match, generation after generation, his pale blue males with slaty females, for he wishes to keep the latter of this colour. The result would generally be the production either of a mongrel piebald lot, or more probably the speedy and complete loss of the pale-blue tint; for the primordial slaty colour would be transmitted with prepotent force. Supposing, however, that some pale-blue males and slaty females were produced during each successive generation, and were always crossed together, then the slaty females would have, if I may use the expression, much blue blood in their veins, for their fathers, grandfathers, etc., will all have been blue birds. Under these circumstances it is conceivable (though I know of no distinct facts rendering it probable) that the slaty females might acquire so strong a latent tendency to pale-blueness, that they would not destroy this colour in their male offspring, their female offspring still inheriting the slaty tint. If so, the desired end of making a breed with the two sexes permanently different in colour might be gained.
The extreme importance, or rather necessity in the above case of the desired character, namely, pale-blueness, being present though in a latent state in the female, so that the male offspring should not be deteriorated, will be best appreciated as follows: the male of Soemmerring's pheasant has a tail thirty-seven inches in length, whilst that of the female is only eight inches; the tail of the male common pheasant is about twenty inches, and that of the female twelve inches long. Now if the female Soemmerring pheasant with her SHORT tail were crossed with the male common pheasant, there can be no doubt that the male hybrid offspring would have a much LONGER tail than that of the pure offspring of the common pheasant. On the other hand, if the female common pheasant, with a tail much longer than that of the female Soemmerring pheasant, were crossed with the male of the latter, the male hybrid offspring would have a much SHORTER tail than that of the pure offspring of Soemmerring's pheasant. (3. Temminck says that the tail of the female Phasianus Soemmerringii is only six inches long, 'Planches coloriees,' vol. v. 1838, pp. 487 and 488: the measurements above given were made for me by Mr. Sclater. For the common pheasant, see Macgillivray, 'History of British Birds,' vol. i. pp. 118-121.)
Our fancier, in order to make his new breed with the males of a pale-blue tint, and the females unchanged, would have to continue selecting the males during many generations; and each stage of paleness would have to be fixed in the males, and rendered latent in the females. The task would be an extremely difficult one, and has never been tried, but might possibly be successfully carried out. The chief obstacle would be the early and complete loss of the pale-blue tint, from the necessity of reiterated crosses with the slaty female, the latter not having at first any LATENT tendency to produce pale-blue offspring.
On the other hand, if one or two males were to vary ever so slightly in paleness, and the variations were from the first limited in their transmission to the male sex, the task of making a new breed of the desired kind would be easy, for such males would simply have to be selected and matched with ordinary females. An analogous case has actually occurred, for there are breeds of the pigeon in Belgium (4. Dr. Chapuis, 'Le Pigeon Voyageur Belge,' 1865, p. 87.) in which the males alone are marked with black striae. So again Mr. Tegetmeier has recently shewn (5. The 'Field,' Sept. 1872.) that dragons not rarely produce silver-coloured birds, which are almost always hens; and he himself has bred ten such females. It is on the other hand a very unusual event when a silver male is produced; so that nothing would be easier, if desired, than to make a breed of dragons with blue males and silver females. This tendency is indeed so strong that when Mr. Tegetmeier at last got a silver male and matched him with one of the silver females, he expected to get a breed with both sexes thus coloured; he was however disappointed, for the young male reverted to the blue colour of his grandfather, the young female alone being silver. No doubt with patience this tendency to reversion in the males, reared from an occasional silver male matched with a silver hen, might be eliminated, and then both sexes would be coloured alike; and this very process has been followed with success by Mr. Esquilant in the case of silver turbits.
With fowls, variations of colour, limited in their transmission to the male sex, habitually occur. When this form of inheritance prevails, it might well happen that some of the successive variations would be transferred to the female, who would then slightly resemble the male, as actually occurs in some breeds. Or again, the greater number, but not all, of the successive steps might be transferred to both sexes, and the female would then closely resemble the male. There can hardly be a doubt that this is the cause of the male pouter pigeon having a somewhat larger crop, and of the male carrier pigeon having somewhat larger wattles, than their respective females; for fanciers have not selected one sex more than the other, and have had no wish that these characters should be more strongly displayed in the male than in the female, yet this is the case with both breeds.
Lastly, our fancier might wish to make a breed with the two sexes differing from each other, and both from the parent species. Here the difficulty would be extreme, unless the successive variations were from the first sexually limited on both sides, and then there would be no difficulty. We see this with the fowl; thus the two sexes of the pencilled Hamburghs differ greatly from each other, and from the two sexes of the aboriginal Gallus bankiva; and both are now kept constant to their standard of excellence by continued selection, which would be impossible unless the distinctive characters of both were limited in their transmission.
The Spanish fowl offers a more curious case; the male has an immense comb, but some of the successive variations, by the accumulation of which it was acquired, appear to have been transferred to the female; for she has a comb many times larger than that of the females of the parent species. But the comb of the female differs in one respect from that of the male, for it is apt to lop over; and within a recent period it has been ordered by the fancy that this should always be the case, and success has quickly followed the order. Now the lopping of the comb must be sexually limited in its transmission, otherwise it would prevent the comb of the male from being perfectly upright, which would be abhorrent to every fancier. On the other hand, the uprightness of the comb in the male must likewise be a sexually- limited character, otherwise it would prevent the comb of the female from lopping over.
From the foregoing illustrations, we see that even with almost unlimited time at command, it would be an extremely difficult and complex, perhaps an impossible process, to change one form of transmission into the other through selection. Therefore, without distinct evidence in each case, I am unwilling to admit that this has been effected in natural species. On the other hand, by means of successive variations, which were from the first sexually limited in their transmission, there would not be the least difficulty in rendering a male bird widely different in colour or in any other character from the female; the latter being left unaltered, or slightly altered, or specially modified for the sake of protection.
As bright colours are of service to the males in their rivalry with other males, such colours would be selected whether or not they were transmitted exclusively to the same sex. Consequently the females might be expected often to partake of the brightness of the males to a greater or less degree; and this occurs with a host of species. If all the successive variations were transmitted equally to both sexes, the females would be indistinguishable from the males; and this likewise occurs with many birds. If, however, dull colours were of high importance for the safety of the female during incubation, as with many ground birds, the females which varied in brightness, or which received through inheritance from the males any marked accession of brightness, would sooner or later be destroyed. But the tendency in the males to continue for an indefinite period transmitting to their female offspring their own brightness, would have to be eliminated by a change in the form of inheritance; and this, as shewn by our previous illustration, would be extremely difficult. The more probable result of the long-continued destruction of the more brightly-coloured females, supposing the equal form of transmission to prevail, would be the lessening or annihilation of the bright colours of the males, owing to their continual crossing with the duller females. It would be tedious to follow out all the other possible results; but I may remind the reader that if sexually-limited variations in brightness occurred in the females, even if they were not in the least injurious to them and consequently were not eliminated, yet they would not be favoured or selected, for the male usually accepts any female, and does not select the more attractive individuals; consequently these variations would be liable to be lost, and would have little influence on the character of the race; and this will aid in accounting for the females being commonly duller-coloured than the males.
In the eighth chapter instances were given, to which many might here be added, of variations occurring at various ages, and inherited at the corresponding age. It was also shewn that variations which occur late in life are commonly transmitted to the same sex in which they first appear; whilst variations occurring early in life are apt to be transmitted to both sexes; not that all the cases of sexually-limited transmission can thus be accounted for. It was further shewn that if a male bird varied by becoming brighter whilst young, such variations would be of no service until the age for reproduction had arrived, and there was competition between rival males. But in the case of birds living on the ground and commonly in need of the protection of dull colours, bright tints would be far more dangerous to the young and inexperienced than to the adult males. Consequently the males which varied in brightness whilst young would suffer much destruction and be eliminated through natural selection; on the other hand, the males which varied in this manner when nearly mature, notwithstanding that they were exposed to some additional danger, might survive, and from being favoured through sexual selection, would procreate their kind. As a relation often exists between the period of variation and the form of transmission, if the bright-coloured young males were destroyed and the mature ones were successful in their courtship, the males alone would acquire brilliant colours and would transmit them exclusively to their male offspring. But I by no means wish to maintain that the influence of age on the form of transmission, is the sole cause of the great difference in brilliancy between the sexes of many birds.
When the sexes of birds differ in colour, it is interesting to determine whether the males alone have been modified by sexual selection, the females having been left unchanged, or only partially and indirectly thus changed; or whether the females have been specially modified through natural selection for the sake of protection. I will therefore discuss this question at some length, even more fully than its intrinsic importance deserves; for various curious collateral points may thus be conveniently considered.
Before we enter on the subject of colour, more especially in reference to Mr. Wallace's conclusions, it may be useful to discuss some other sexual differences under a similar point of view. A breed of fowls formerly existed in Germany (6. Bechstein, 'Naturgeschichte Deutschlands,' 1793, B. iii. 339.) in which the hens were furnished with spurs; they were good layers, but they so greatly disturbed their nests with their spurs that they could not be allowed to sit on their own eggs. Hence at one time it appeared to me probable that with the females of the wild Gallinaceae the development of spurs had been checked through natural selection, from the injury thus caused to their nests. This seemed all the more probable, as wing-spurs, which would not be injurious during incubation, are often as well-developed in the female as in the male; though in not a few cases they are rather larger in the male. When the male is furnished with leg-spurs the female almost always exhibits rudiments of them,--the rudiment sometimes consisting of a mere scale, as in Gallus. Hence it might be argued that the females had aboriginally been furnished with well-developed spurs, but that these had subsequently been lost through disuse or natural selection. But if this view be admitted, it would have to be extended to innumerable other cases; and it implies that the female progenitors of the existing spurbearing species were once encumbered with an injurious appendage.
In some few genera and species, as in Galloperdix, Acomus, and the Javan peacock (Pavo muticus), the females, as well as the males, possess well- developed leg-spurs. Are we to infer from this fact that they construct a different sort of nest from that made by their nearest allies, and not liable to be injured by their spurs; so that the spurs have not been removed? Or are we to suppose that the females of these several species especially require spurs for their defence? It is a more probable conclusion that both the presence and absence of spurs in the females result from different laws of inheritance having prevailed, independently of natural selection. With the many females in which spurs appear as rudiments, we may conclude that some few of the successive variations, through which they were developed in the males, occurred very early in life, and were consequently transferred to the females. In the other and much rarer cases, in which the females possess fully developed spurs, we may conclude that all the successive variations were transferred to them; and that they gradually acquired and inherited the habit of not disturbing their nests.
The vocal organs and the feathers variously modified for producing sound, as well as the proper instincts for using them, often differ in the two sexes, but are sometimes the same in both. Can such differences be accounted for by the males having acquired these organs and instincts, whilst the females have been saved from inheriting them, on account of the danger to which they would have been exposed by attracting the attention of birds or beasts of prey? This does not seem to me probable, when we think of the multitude of birds which with impunity gladden the country with their voices during the spring. (7. Daines Barrington, however, thought it probable ('Philosophical Transactions,' 1773, p. 164) that few female birds sing, because the talent would have been dangerous to them during incubation. He adds, that a similar view may possibly account for the inferiority of the female to the male in plumage.) It is a safer conclusion that, as vocal and instrumental organs are of special service only to the males during their courtship, these organs were developed through sexual selection and their constant use in that sex alone--the successive variations and the effects of use having been from the first more or less limited in transmission to the male offspring.
Many analogous cases could be adduced; those for instance of the plumes on the head being generally longer in the male than in the female, sometimes of equal length in both sexes, and occasionally absent in the female,-- these several cases occurring in the same group of birds. It would be difficult to account for such a difference between the sexes by the female having been benefited by possessing a slightly shorter crest than the male, and its consequent diminution or complete suppression through natural selection. But I will take a more favourable case, namely the length of the tail. The long train of the peacock would have been not only inconvenient but dangerous to the peahen during the period of incubation and whilst accompanying her young. Hence there is not the least a priori improbability in the development of her tail having been checked through natural selection. But the females of various pheasants, which apparently are exposed on their open nests to as much danger as the peahen, have tails of considerable length. The females as well as the males of the Menura superba have long tails, and they build a domed nest, which is a great anomaly in so large a bird. Naturalists have wondered how the female Menura could manage her tail during incubation; but it is now known (8. Mr. Ramsay, in 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1868, p. 50.) that she "enters the nest head first, and then turns round with her tail sometimes over her back, but more often bent round by her side. Thus in time the tail becomes quite askew, and is a tolerable guide to the length of time the bird has been sitting." Both sexes of an Australian kingfisher (Tanysiptera sylvia) have the middle tail-feathers greatly lengthened, and the female makes her nest in a hole; and as I am informed by Mr. R.B. Sharpe these feathers become much crumpled during incubation.
In these two latter cases the great length of the tail-feathers must be in some degree inconvenient to the female; and as in both species the tail- feathers of the female are somewhat shorter than those of the male, it might be argued that their full development had been prevented through natural selection. But if the development of the tail of the peahen had been checked only when it became inconveniently or dangerously great, she would have retained a much longer tail than she actually possesses; for her tail is not nearly so long, relatively to the size of her body, as that of many female pheasants, nor longer than that of the female turkey. It must also be borne in mind that, in accordance with this view, as soon as the tail of the peahen became dangerously long, and its development was consequently checked, she would have continually reacted on her male progeny, and thus have prevented the peacock from acquiring his present magnificent train. We may therefore infer that the length of the tail in the peacock and its shortness in the peahen are the result of the requisite variations in the male having been from the first transmitted to the male offspring alone.
We are led to a nearly similar conclusion with respect to the length of the tail in the various species of pheasants. In the Eared pheasant (Crossoptilon auritum) the tail is of equal length in both sexes, namely sixteen or seventeen inches; in the common pheasant it is about twenty inches long in the male and twelve in the female; in Soemmerring's pheasant, thirty-seven inches in the male and only eight in the female; and lastly in Reeve's pheasant it is sometimes actually seventy-two inches long in the male and sixteen in the female. Thus in the several species, the tail of the female differs much in length, irrespectively of that of the male; and this can be accounted for, as it seems to me, with much more probability, by the laws of inheritance,--that is by the successive variations having been from the first more or less closely limited in their transmission to the male sex than by the agency of natural selection, resulting from the length of tail being more or less injurious to the females of these several allied species.
We may now consider Mr. Wallace's arguments in regard to the sexual coloration of birds. He believes that the bright tints originally acquired through sexual selection by the males would in all, or almost all cases, have been transmitted to the females, unless the transference had been checked through natural selection. I may here remind the reader that various facts opposed to this view have already been given under reptiles, amphibians, fishes and lepidoptera. Mr. Wallace rests his belief chiefly, but not exclusively, as we shall see in the next chapter, on the following statement (9. 'Journal of Travel,' edited by A. Murray, vol. i. 1868, p. 78.), that when both sexes are coloured in a very conspicuous manner, the nest is of such a nature as to conceal the sitting bird; but when there is a marked contrast of colour between the sexes, the male being gay and the female dull-coloured, the nest is open and exposes the sitting bird to view. This coincidence, as far as it goes, certainly seems to favour the belief that the females which sit on open nests have been specially modified for the sake of protection; but we shall presently see that there is another and more probable explanation, namely, that conspicuous females have acquired the instinct of building domed nests oftener than dull- coloured birds. Mr. Wallace admits that there are, as might have been expected, some exceptions to his two rules, but it is a question whether the exceptions are not so numerous as seriously to invalidate them.
There is in the first place much truth in the Duke of Argyll's remark (10. 'Journal of Travel,' edited by A. Murray, vol. i. 1868, p. 281.) that a large domed nest is more conspicuous to an enemy, especially to all tree- haunting carnivorous animals, than a smaller open nest. Nor must we forget that with many birds which build open nests, the male sits on the eggs and aids the female in feeding the young: this is the case, for instance, with Pyranga aestiva (11. Audubon, 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. i. p. 233.), one of the most splendid birds in the United States, the male being vermilion, and the female light brownish-green. Now if brilliant colours had been extremely dangerous to birds whilst sitting on their open nests, the males in these cases would have suffered greatly. It might, however, be of such paramount importance to the male to be brilliantly coloured, in order to beat his rivals, that this may have more than compensated some additional danger.
Mr. Wallace admits that with the King-crows (Dicrurus), Orioles, and Pittidae, the females are conspicuously coloured, yet build open nests; but he urges that the birds of the first group are highly pugnacious and could defend themselves; that those of the second group take extreme care in concealing their open nests, but this does not invariably hold good (12. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. ii. p. 108. Gould's 'Handbook of the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. p. 463.); and that with the birds of the third group the females are brightly coloured chiefly on the under surface. Besides these cases, pigeons which are sometimes brightly, and almost always conspicuously coloured, and which are notoriously liable to the attacks of birds of prey, offer a serious exception to the rule, for they almost always build open and exposed nests. In another large family, that of the humming-birds, all the species build open nests, yet with some of the most gorgeous species the sexes are alike; and in the majority, the females, though less brilliant than the males, are brightly coloured. Nor can it be maintained that all female humming-birds, which are brightly coloured, escape detection by their tints being green, for some display on their upper surfaces red, blue, and other colours. (13. For instance, the female Eupetomena macroura has the head and tail dark blue with reddish loins; the female Lampornis porphyrurus is blackish-green on the upper surface, with the lores and sides of the throat crimson; the female Eulampis jugularis has the top of the head and back green, but the loins and the tail are crimson. Many other instances of highly conspicuous females could be given. See Mr. Gould's magnificent work on this family.) In regard to birds which build in holes or construct domed nests, other advantages, as Mr. Wallace remarks, besides concealment are gained, such as shelter from the rain, greater warmth, and in hot countries protection from the sun (14. Mr. Salvin noticed in Guatemala ('Ibis,' 1864, p. 375) that humming-birds were much more unwilling to leave their nests during very hot weather, when the sun was shining brightly, as if their eggs would be thus injured, than during cool, cloudy, or rainy weather.); so that it is no valid objection to his view that many birds having both sexes obscurely coloured build concealed nests. (15. I may specify, as instances of dull- coloured birds building concealed nests, the species belonging to eight Australian genera described in Gould's 'Handbook of the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. pp. 340, 362, 365, 383, 387, 389, 391, 414.) The female Horn-bill (Buceros), for instance, of India and Africa is protected during incubation with extraordinary care, for she plasters up with her own excrement the orifice of the hole in which she sits on her eggs, leaving only a small orifice through which the male feeds her; she is thus kept a close prisoner during the whole period of incubation (16. Mr. C. Horne, 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1869. p. 243.); yet female horn-bills are not more conspicuously coloured than many other birds of equal size which build open nests. It is a more serious objection to Mr. Wallace's view, as is admitted by him, that in some few groups the males are brilliantly coloured and the females obscure, and yet the latter hatch their eggs in domed nests. This is the case with the Grallinae of Australia, the Superb Warblers (Maluridae) of the same country, the Sun-birds (Nectariniae), and with several of the Australian Honey-suckers or Meliphagidae. (17. On the nidification and colours of these latter species, see Gould's 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. pp. 504, 527.)
If we look to the birds of England we shall see that there is no close and general relation between the colours of the female and the nature of the nest which is constructed. About forty of our British birds (excluding those of large size which could defend themselves) build in holes in banks, rocks, or trees, or construct domed nests. If we take the colours of the female goldfinch, bullfinch, or blackbird, as a standard of the degree of conspicuousness, which is not highly dangerous to the sitting female, then out of the above forty birds the females of only twelve can be considered as conspicuous to a dangerous degree, the remaining twenty-eight being inconspicuous. (18. I have consulted, on this subject, Macgillivray's 'British Birds,' and though doubts may be entertained in some cases in regard to the degree of concealment of the nest, and to the degree of conspicuousness of the female, yet the following birds, which all lay their eggs in holes or in domed nests, can hardly be considered, by the above standard, as conspicuous: Passer, 2 species; Sturnus, of which the female is considerably less brilliant than the male; Cinclus; Motallica boarula (?); Erithacus (?); Fruticola, 2 sp.; Saxicola; Ruticilla, 2 sp.; Sylvia, 3 sp.; Parus, 3 sp.; Mecistura; Anorthura; Certhia; Sitta; Yunx; Muscicapa, 2 sp.; Hirundo, 3 sp.; and Cypselus. The females of the following 12 birds may be considered as conspicuous according to the same standard, viz., Pastor, Motacilla alba, Parus major and P. caeruleus, Upupa, Picus, 4 sp., Coracias, Alcedo, and Merops.) Nor is there any close relation within the same genus between a well-pronounced difference in colour between the sexes, and the nature of the nest constructed. Thus the male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) differs much from the female, the male tree-sparrow (P. montanus) hardly at all, and yet both build well-concealed nests. The two sexes of the common fly-catcher (Muscicapa grisola) can hardly be distinguished, whilst the sexes of the pied fly-catcher (M. luctuosa) differ considerably, and both species build in holes or conceal their nests. The female blackbird (Turdus merula) differs much, the female ring- ouzel (T. torquatus) differs less, and the female common thrush (T. musicus) hardly at all from their respective males; yet all build open nests. On the other hand, the not very distantly-allied water-ouzel (Cinclus aquaticus) builds a domed nest, and the sexes differ about as much as in the ring-ouzel. The black and red grouse (Tetrao tetrix and T. scoticus) build open nests in equally well-concealed spots, but in the one species the sexes differ greatly, and in the other very little.
Notwithstanding the foregoing objections, I cannot doubt, after reading Mr. Wallace's excellent essay, that looking to the birds of the world, a large majority of the species in which the females are conspicuously coloured (and in this case the males with rare exceptions are equally conspicuous), build concealed nests for the sake of protection. Mr. Wallace enumerates (19. 'Journal of Travel,' edited by A. Murray, vol. i. p. 78.) a long series of groups in which this rule holds good; but it will suffice here to give, as instances, the more familiar groups of kingfishers, toucans, trogons, puff-birds (Capitonidae), plantain-eaters (Musophagae, woodpeckers, and parrots. Mr. Wallace believes that in these groups, as the males gradually acquired through sexual selection their brilliant colours, these were transferred to the females and were not eliminated by natural selection, owing to the protection which they already enjoyed from their manner of nidification. According to this view, their present manner of nesting was acquired before their present colours. But it seems to me much more probable that in most cases, as the females were gradually rendered more and more brilliant from partaking of the colours of the male, they were gradually led to change their instincts (supposing that they originally built open nests), and to seek protection by building domed or concealed nests. No one who studies, for instance, Audubon's account of the differences in the nests of the same species in the Northern and Southern United States (20. See many statements in the 'Ornithological Biography.' See also some curious observations on the nests of Italian birds by Eugenio Bettoni, in the 'Atti della Societa Italiana,' vol. xi. 1869, p. 487.), will feel any great difficulty in admitting that birds, either by a change (in the strict sense of the word) of their habits, or through the natural selection of so-called spontaneous variations of instinct, might readily be led to modify their manner of nesting.
This way of viewing the relation, as far as it holds good, between the bright colours of female birds and their manner of nesting, receives some support from certain cases occurring in the Sahara Desert. Here, as in most other deserts, various birds, and many other animals, have had their colours adapted in a wonderful manner to the tints of the surrounding surface. Nevertheless there are, as I am informed by the Rev. Mr. Tristram, some curious exceptions to the rule; thus the male of the Monticola cyanea is conspicuous from his bright blue colour, and the female almost equally conspicuous from her mottled brown and white plumage; both sexes of two species of Dromolaea are of a lustrous black; so that these three species are far from receiving protection from their colours, yet they are able to survive, for they have acquired the habit of taking refuge from danger in holes or crevices in the rocks.
With respect to the above groups in which the females are conspicuously coloured and build concealed nests, it is not necessary to suppose that each separate species had its nidifying instinct specially modified; but only that the early progenitors of each group were gradually led to build domed or concealed nests, and afterwards transmitted this instinct, together with their bright colours, to their modified descendants. As far as it can be trusted, the conclusion is interesting, that sexual selection together with equal or nearly equal inheritance by both sexes, have indirectly determined the manner of nidification of whole groups of birds.
According to Mr. Wallace, even in the groups in which the females, from being protected in domed nests during incubation, have not had their bright colours eliminated through natural selection, the males often differ in a slight, and occasionally in a considerable degree from the females. This is a significant fact, for such differences in colour must be accounted for by some of the variations in the males having been from the first limited in transmission to the same sex; as it can hardly be maintained that these differences, especially when very slight, serve as a protection to the female. Thus all the species in the splendid group of the Trogons build in holes; and Mr. Gould gives figures (21. See his Monograph of the Trogonidae, 1st edition.) of both sexes of twenty-five species, in all of which, with one partial exception, the sexes differ sometimes slightly, sometimes conspicuously, in colour,--the males being always finer than the females, though the latter are likewise beautiful. All the species of kingfishers build in holes, and with most of the species the sexes are equally brilliant, and thus far Mr. Wallace's rule holds good; but in some of the Australian species the colours of the females are rather less vivid than those of the male; and in one splendidly-coloured species, the sexes differ so much that they were at first thought to be specifically distinct. (22. Namely, Cyanalcyon, Gould's 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. i. p. 133; see, also, pp. 130, 136.) Mr. R.B. Sharpe, who has especially studied this group, has shewn me some American species (Ceryle) in which the breast of the male is belted with black. Again, in Carcineutes, the difference between the sexes is conspicuous: in the male the upper surface is dull-blue banded with black, the lower surface being partly fawn-coloured, and there is much red about the head; in the female the upper surface is reddish-brown banded with black, and the lower surface white with black markings. It is an interesting fact, as shewing how the same peculiar style of sexual colouring often characterises allied forms, that in three species of Dacelo the male differs from the female only in the tail being dull-blue banded with black, whilst that of the female is brown with blackish bars; so that here the tail differs in colour in the two sexes in exactly the same manner as the whole upper surface in the two sexes of Carcineutes.
With parrots, which likewise build in holes, we find analogous cases: in most of the species, both sexes are brilliantly coloured and indistinguishable, but in not a few species the males are coloured rather more vividly than the females, or even very differently from them. Thus, besides other strongly-marked differences, the whole under surface of the male King Lory (Aprosmictus scapulatus) is scarlet, whilst the throat and chest of the female is green tinged with red: in the Euphema splendida there is a similar difference, the face and wing coverts moreover of the female being of a paler blue than in the male. (23. Every gradation of difference between the sexes may be followed in the parrots of Australia. See Gould's 'Handbook,' etc., vol. ii. pp. 14-102.) In the family of the tits (Parinae), which build concealed nests, the female of our common blue tomtit (Parus caeruleus), is "much less brightly coloured" than the male: and in the magnificent Sultan yellow tit of India the difference is greater. (24. Macgillivray's 'British Birds,' vol. ii. p. 433. Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. ii. p. 282.)
Again, in the great group of the woodpeckers (25. All the following facts are taken from M. Malherbe's magnificent 'Monographie des Picidees,' 1861.), the sexes are generally nearly alike, but in the Megapicus validus all those parts of the head, neck, and breast, which are crimson in the male are pale brown in the female. As in several woodpeckers the head of the male is bright crimson, whilst that of the female is plain, it occurred to me that this colour might possibly make the female dangerously conspicuous, whenever she put her head out of the hole containing her nest, and consequently that this colour, in accordance with Mr. Wallace's belief, had been eliminated. This view is strengthened by what Malherbe states with respect to Indopicus carlotta; namely, that the young females, like the young males, have some crimson about their heads, but that this colour disappears in the adult female, whilst it is intensified in the adult male. Nevertheless the following considerations render this view extremely doubtful: the male takes a fair share in incubation (26. Audubon's 'Ornithological Biography,' vol. ii. p. 75; see also the 'Ibis,' vol. i. p. 268.), and would be thus almost equally exposed to danger; both sexes of many species have their heads of an equally bright crimson; in other species the difference between the sexes in the amount of scarlet is so slight that it can hardly make any appreciable difference in the danger incurred; and lastly, the colouring of the head in the two sexes often differs slightly in other ways.
The cases, as yet given, of slight and graduated differences in colour between the males and females in the groups, in which as a general rule the sexes resemble each other, all relate to species which build domed or concealed nests. But similar gradations may likewise be observed in groups in which the sexes as a general rule resemble each other, but which build open nests.
As I have before instanced the Australian parrots, so I may here instance, without giving any details, the Australian pigeons. (27. Gould's 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. ii. pp. 109-149.) It deserves especial notice that in all these cases the slight differences in plumage between the sexes are of the same general nature as the occasionally greater differences. A good illustration of this fact has already been afforded by those kingfishers in which either the tail alone or the whole upper surface of the plumage differs in the same manner in the two sexes. Similar cases may be observed with parrots and pigeons. The differences in colour between the sexes of the same species are, also, of the same general nature as the differences in colour between the distinct species of the same group. For when in a group in which the sexes are usually alike, the male differs considerably from the female, he is not coloured in a quite new style. Hence we may infer that within the same group the special colours of both sexes when they are alike, and the colours of the male, when he differs slightly or even considerably from the female, have been in most cases determined by the same general cause; this being sexual selection.
It is not probable, as has already been remarked, that differences in colour between the sexes, when very slight, can be of service to the female as a protection. Assuming, however, that they are of service, they might be thought to be cases of transition; but we have no reason to believe that many species at any one time are undergoing change. Therefore we can hardly admit that the numerous females which differ very slightly in colour from their males are now all commencing to become obscure for the sake of protection. Even if we consider somewhat more marked sexual differences, is it probable, for instance, that the head of the female chaffinch,--the crimson on the breast of the female bullfinch,--the green of the female greenfinch,--the crest of the female goldencrested wren, have all been rendered less bright by the slow process of selection for the sake of protection? I cannot think so; and still less with the slight differences between the sexes of those birds which build concealed nests. On the other hand, the differences in colour between the sexes, whether great or small, may to a large extent be explained on the principle of the successive variations, acquired by the males through sexual selection, having been from the first more or less limited in their transmission to the females. That the degree of limitation should differ in different species of the same group will not surprise any one who has studied the laws of inheritance, for they are so complex that they appear to us in our ignorance to be capricious in their action. (28. See remarks to this effect in 'Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication,' vol. ii. chap. xii.)
As far as I can discover there are few large groups of birds in which all the species have both sexes alike and brilliantly coloured, but I hear from Mr. Sclater, that this appears to be the case with the Musophagae or plantain-eaters. Nor do I believe that any large group exists in which the sexes of all the species are widely dissimilar in colour: Mr. Wallace informs me that the chatterers of S. America (Cotingidae) offer one of the best instances; but with some of the species, in which the male has a splendid red breast, the female exhibits some red on her breast; and the females of other species shew traces of the green and other colours of the males. Nevertheless we have a near approach to close sexual similarity or dissimilarity throughout several groups: and this, from what has just been said of the fluctuating nature of inheritance, is a somewhat surprising circumstance. But that the same laws should largely prevail with allied animals is not surprising. The domestic fowl has produced a great number of breeds and sub-breeds, and in these the sexes generally differ in plumage; so that it has been noticed as an unusual circumstance when in certain sub-breeds they resemble each other. On the other hand, the domestic pigeon has likewise produced a vast number of distinct breeds and sub-breeds, and in these, with rare exceptions, the two sexes are identically alike.
Therefore if other species of Gallus and Columba were domesticated and varied, it would not be rash to predict that similar rules of sexual similarity and dissimilarity, depending on the form of transmission, would hold good in both cases. In like manner the same form of transmission has generally prevailed under nature throughout the same groups, although marked exceptions to this rule occur. Thus within the same family or even genus, the sexes may be identically alike, or very different in colour. Instances have already been given in the same genus, as with sparrows, fly- catchers, thrushes and grouse. In the family of pheasants the sexes of almost all the species are wonderfully dissimilar, but are quite alike in the eared pheasant or Crossoptilon auritum. In two species of Chloephaga, a genus of geese, the male cannot be distinguished from the females, except by size; whilst in two others, the sexes are so unlike that they might easily be mistaken for distinct species. (29. The 'Ibis,' vol. vi. 1864, p. 122.)
The laws of inheritance can alone account for the following cases, in which the female acquires, late in life, certain characters proper to the male, and ultimately comes to resemble him more or less completely. Here protection can hardly have come into play. Mr. Blyth informs me that the females of Oriolus melanocephalus and of some allied species, when sufficiently mature to breed, differ considerably in plumage from the adult males; but after the second or third moults they differ only in their beaks having a slight greenish tinge. In the dwarf bitterns (Ardetta), according to the same authority, "the male acquires his final livery at the first moult, the female not before the third or fourth moult; in the meanwhile she presents an intermediate garb, which is ultimately exchanged for the same livery as that of the male." So again the female Falco peregrinus acquires her blue plumage more slowly than the male. Mr. Swinhoe states that with one of the Drongo shrikes (Dicrurus macrocercus) the male, whilst almost a nestling, moults his soft brown plumage and becomes of a uniform glossy greenish-black; but the female retains for a long time the white striae and spots on the axillary feathers; and does not completely assume the uniform black colour of the male for three years. The same excellent observer remarks that in the spring of the second year the female spoon- bill (Platalea) of China resembles the male of the first year, and that apparently it is not until the third spring that she acquires the same adult plumage as that possessed by the male at a much earlier age. The female Bombycilla carolinensis differs very little from the male, but the appendages, which like beads of red sealing-wax ornament the wing-feathers (30. When the male courts the female, these ornaments are vibrated, and "are shewn off to great advantage," on the outstretched wings: A. Leith Adams, 'Field and Forest Rambles,' 1873, p. 153.), are not developed in her so early in life as in the male. In the male of an Indian parrakeet (Palaeornis javanicus) the upper mandible is coral-red from his earliest youth, but in the female, as Mr. Blyth has observed with caged and wild birds, it is at first black and does not become red until the bird is at least a year old, at which age the sexes resemble each other in all respects. Both sexes of the wild turkey are ultimately furnished with a tuft of bristles on the breast, but in two-year-old birds the tuft is about four inches long in the male and hardly apparent in the female; when, however, the latter has reached her fourth year, it is from four to five inches in length. (31. On Ardetta, Translation of Cuvier's 'Regne Animal,' by Mr. Blyth, footnote, p. 159. On the Peregrine Falcon, Mr. Blyth, in Charlesworth's 'Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol. i. 1837, p. 304. On Dicrurus, 'Ibis,' 1863, p. 44. On the Platalea, 'Ibis,' vol. vi. 1864, p. 366. On the Bombycilla, Audubon's 'Ornitholog. Biography,' vol. i. p. 229. On the Palaeornis, see, also, Jerdon, 'Birds of India,' vol. i. p. 263. On the wild turkey, Audubon, ibid. vol. i. p. 15; but I hear from Judge Caton that in Illinois the female very rarely acquires a tuft. Analogous cases with the females of Petrocossyphus are given by Mr. R. Sharpe, 'Proceedings of the Zoological Society,' 1872, p. 496.)
These cases must not be confounded with those where diseased or old females abnormally assume masculine characters, nor with those where fertile females, whilst young, acquire the characters of the male, through variation or some unknown cause. (32. Of these latter cases Mr. Blyth has recorded (Translation of Cuvier's 'Regne Animal,' p. 158) various instances with Lanius, Ruticilla, Linaria, and Anas. Audubon has also recorded a similar case ('Ornitholog. Biography,' vol. v. p. 519) with Pyranga aestiva.) But all these cases have so much in common that they depend, according to the hypothesis of pangenesis, on gemmules derived from each part of the male being present, though latent, in the female; their development following on some slight change in the elective affinities of her constituent tissues.
A few words must be added on changes of plumage in relation to the season of the year. From reasons formerly assigned there can be little doubt that the elegant plumes, long pendant feathers, crests, etc., of egrets, herons, and many other birds, which are developed and retained only during the summer, serve for ornamental and nuptial purposes, though common to both sexes. The female is thus rendered more conspicuous during the period of incubation than during the winter; but such birds as herons and egrets would be able to defend themselves. As, however, plumes would probably be inconvenient and certainly of no use during the winter, it is possible that the habit of moulting twice in the year may have been gradually acquired through natural selection for the sake of casting off inconvenient ornaments during the winter. But this view cannot be extended to the many waders, whose summer and winter plumages differ very little in colour. With defenceless species, in which both sexes, or the males alone, become extremely conspicuous during the breeding-season,--or when the males acquire at this season such long wing or tail-feathers as to impede their flight, as with Cosmetornis and Vidua,--it certainly at first appears highly probable that the second moult has been gained for the special purpose of throwing off these ornaments. We must, however, remember that many birds, such as some of the Birds of Paradise, the Argus pheasant and peacock, do not cast their plumes during the winter; and it can hardly be maintained that the constitution of these birds, at least of the Gallinaceae, renders a double moult impossible, for the ptarmigan moults thrice in the year. (33. See Gould's 'Birds of Great Britain.') Hence it must be considered as doubtful whether the many species which moult their ornamental plumes or lose their bright colours during the winter, have acquired this habit on account of the inconvenience or danger which they would otherwise have suffered.
I conclude, therefore, that the habit of moulting twice in the year was in most or all cases first acquired for some distinct purpose, perhaps for gaining a warmer winter covering; and that variations in the plumage occurring during the summer were accumulated through sexual selection, and transmitted to the offspring at the same season of the year; that such variations were inherited either by both sexes or by the males alone, according to the form of inheritance which prevailed. This appears more probable than that the species in all cases originally tended to retain their ornamental plumage during the winter, but were saved from this through natural selection, resulting from the inconvenience or danger thus caused.
I have endeavoured in this chapter to shew that the arguments are not trustworthy in favour of the view that weapons, bright colours, and various ornaments, are now confined to the males owing to the conversion, by natural selection, of the equal transmission of characters to both sexes, into transmission to the male sex alone. It is also doubtful whether the colours of many female birds are due to the preservation, for the sake of protection, of variations which were from the first limited in their transmission to the female sex. But it will be convenient to defer any further discussion on this subject until I treat, in the following chapter, of the differences in plumage between the young and old.