The Variation of Animals and Plants HTML version

hardy, dull-black Norfolk turkey, of which the chickens are black, occasionally with
white patches about the head. The other breeds scarcely differ except in colour, and their
chickens are generally mottled all over with brownish-grey. The inferior tail-coverts vary
in number, and according to a German superstition the hen lays as many eggs as the cock
has feathers of this kind. Albin in 1738, and Temminck within a much later period,
describe a beautiful breed, dusky-yellowish, brown above and white beneath, with a large
top-knot of soft plumose feather. The spurs of the male were rudimentary. This breed has
been for a long time extinct in Europe; but a living specimen has lately been imported
from the east coast of Africa, which still retains the top-knot and the same general
colouring and rudimentary spurs. Mr. Wilmot has described a white turkey-cock having
a crest formed of "feathers about four inches long, with bare quills, and a tuft of soft
white down growing at the end." Many of the young birds inherited this kind of crest, but
afterwards it fell off or was pecked out by the other birds. This is an interesting case, as
with care a new breed might probably have been formed; and a top-knot of this nature
would have been to a certain extent analogous to that borne by the males in several allied
genera, such as Euplocomus, Lophophorus, and Pavo.
Wild turkeys, believed in every instance to have been imported from the United States,
have been kept in the parks of Lords Powis, Leicester, Hill, and Derby. The Rev. W. D.
Fox procured birds from the two first-named parks, and he informs me that they certainly
differed a little from each other in the shape of their bodies and in the barred plumage on
their wings. These birds likewise differed from Lord Hill's stock. Some of the latter kept
at Oulton by Sir P. Egerton, though precluded from crossing with common turkeys,
occasionally produced much paler-coloured birds, and one that was almost white, but not
an albino. These half-wild turkeys, in thus differing slightly from each other, present an
analogous case with the wild cattle kept in the several British parks. We must suppose
that such differences have resulted from the prevention of free intercrossing between
birds ranging over a wide area, and from the changed conditions to which they have been
exposed in England. In India the climate has apparently wrought a still greater change in
the turkey, for it is described by Mr. Blyth as being much degenerated in size, "utterly
incapable of rising on the wing," of a black colour, and "with the long pendulous
appendages over the beak enormously developed."
The domesticated Guinea fowl is now believed by some naturalists to be descended from
the Numida ptilorhynca, which inhabits very hot, and, in parts, extremely arid districts in
Eastern Africa; consequently it has been exposed in this country to extremely different
conditions of life. Nevertheless it has hardly varied at all, except in the plumage being
either paler or darker-coloured. It is a singular fact that this bird varies more in colour in
the West Indies and on the Spanish Main, under a hot though humid climate, than in
Europe. The Guinea fowl has become thoroughly feral in Jamaica and in St. Domingo,
and has diminished in size; the legs are black, whereas the legs of the aboriginal African
bird are said to be grey. This small change is worth notice on account of the often-
repeated statement that all feral animals invariably revert in every character to their
original type.