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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. J. Weir   [before 18 June 1868]1

I am also inclined to the belief that new feathers appear on the linnets breast in Spring, I cannot believe that the feathers themselves actually change color, & I could never detect them so brilliant in the winter   it is however rather an obscure point, and some of the feathers certainly lose the dull colored tips & then expose the brighter plumage underneath, this is certainly the case in both Fringilla cœlebs, & montifringilla.—2

The poor black hen Bullfinch has certainly lost the affections of her mate, who has left her & paired with one of the normal color, placed by me back again in the aviary, the pugnacity of the black one having ceased.—3

She has however become so excessively salacious, far worse than any bird I ever kept and has sought every bird nearby, in the aviary to such an excessive degree, that all the feathers have been trampled off her back & she is now a most miserable spectacle.—

Believe me | My Dear Sir | Yours very truly | J Jenner Weir

C Darwin Esqr.

CD annotations

1.1 I am … spectacle.— 3.4] crossed blue crayon


The date is established from the relationship between this letter and the letter to J. J. Weir, 18 June [1868].
Fringilla coelebs: the chaffinch. Fringilla montifringilla: the brambling.
See letter from J. J. Weir, [4–7] May 1868 and n. 4. CD mentioned Weir’s story in Descent 2: 121.


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


Coloration of linnets.

Sexual behaviour of black hen bullfinch.

Letter details

Letter no.
John Jenner Weir
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 84.1: 141–2
Physical description
4pp inc †

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6249,” accessed on 26 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 16