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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Alfred Newton   1 March 1867

10 Beaufort Gardens | S.W.

1 March 1867.

My dear Sir,

On Tuesday last I met in a birdstuffer’s shop at Brighton an intelligent young gentleman by name Booth.1 He told me that last summer he had opportunities of studying the breeding habits of the Dotterel (Eudromias morinellus) in Scotland and volunteered—without any leading question—the information that the cocks “looked after the young”, and that the hens seemed to care very little about their offspring.

The Dotterel as you no doubt are aware is one of the species in which the hens are much more brilliantly coloured than the cocks.2

Believe me | Yrs. very truly | Alfred Newton

I asked Mr. Booth, (after he had told me what I have mentioned) whether he had taken the trouble to ascertain the sexes of the birds he killed by dissection, & he said he had done so, & shewed me a very dingy looking cock bird that he had obtained while anxiously “looking after” its young.

CD annotations

2.1 The … cocks. 2.2] scored pencil
Top of letter: ‘Males Birds duller than female | Dottrell.’ pencil
End of letter: ‘Blyth in letter [‘says’ del] speaks of those species of Turnix in [interl] which the adult [interl] females only have a more or less black in front   Quotes Jerdon on native testimony that male Turnix alone incubates & tends young—3 If there were many females & only few males in species not polygamous the most beautiful females wd be selected.—4 I think I say that females very few with Polyborus N Zelandiæ.’5 ink; Blyth … N Zelandiæ.] crossed pencil; If … polygamous] double scored ink


Edward Thomas Booth.
CD discussed differences between the sexes of the dotterel plover (now Caradrius morinellus), including their breeding habits, in Descent 2: 203–4. He mentioned Newton’s observations and ‘those of others’ (ibid., p. 204 n. 20). CD had recently exchanged letters about birds in which the female was more brightly coloured and the male cared for the young with Newton and Edward Blyth (see letter to Alfred Newton, 23 January [1867], and letter from Edward Blyth, 24 February 1867).


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


Male dotterels take care of young and are less brilliantly coloured than females.

Letter details

Letter no.
Alfred Newton
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Beaufort Gardens, 10
Source of text
DAR 84.1: 28–9
Physical description
3pp †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 5426,” accessed on 26 October 2021,

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