But, as I am sure from your greater knowledge of Ornithology and Entomology that you will write a much better discussion than I could, your paper will be of great use to me. Nevertheless I must discuss the subject fully in my Essay on Man. When we met at the Zoological Society, and I asked you about the sexual differences in kingfishers, I had this subject in view; as I had when I suggested to Bates the difficulty about gaudy caterpillars, which you have so admirably (as I believe it will prove) explained. (429/2. See a letter of February 26th, 1867, to Mr. Wallace, "Life and Letters" III., page 94.) I have got one capital case (genus forgotten) of a [Australian] bird in which the female has long tail-plumes, and which consequently builds a different nest from all her allies. (429/3. Menura superba: see "Descent of Man" (1901), page 687. Rhynchoea, mentioned a line or two lower down, is discussed in the "Descent," page 727. The female is more brightly coloured than the male, and has a convoluted trachea, elsewhere a masculine character. There seems some reason to suppose that "the male undertakes the duty of incubation.") With respect to certain female birds being more brightly coloured than the males, and the latter incubating, I have gone a little into the subject, and cannot say that I am fully satisfied. I remember mentioning to you the case of Rhynchoea, but its nesting seems unknown. In some other cases the difference in brightness seemed to me hardly sufficiently accounted for by the principle of protection. At the Falkland Islands there is a carrion hawk in which the female (as I ascertained by dissection) is the brightest coloured, and I doubt whether protection will here apply; but I wrote several months ago to the Falklands to make enquiries. The conclusion to which I have been leaning is that in some of these abnormal cases the colour happened to vary in the female alone, and was transmitted to females alone, and that her variations have been selected through the admiration of the male.
It is a very interesting subject, but I shall not be able to go on with it for the next five or six months, as I am fully employed in correcting dull proof-sheets. When I return to the work I shall find it much better done by you than I could have succeeded in doing.
It is curious how we hit on the same ideas. I have endeavoured to show in my MS. discussion that nearly the same principles account for young birds not being gaily coloured in many cases, but this is too complex a point for a note.
On reading over your letter again, and on further reflection, I do not think (as far as I remember my words) that I expressed myself nearly strongly enough on the value and beauty of your generalisation (429/4. See Letter 203, Volume I.), viz., that all birds in which the female is conspicuously or brightly coloured build in holes or under domes. I thought that this was the explanation in many, perhaps most cases, but do not think I should ever have extended my view to your generalisation. Forgive me troubling you with this P.S.
LETTER 430. TO A.R. WALLACE. Down, May 5th .
The offer of your valuable notes is most generous, but it would vex me to take so much from you, as it is certain that you could work up the subject very much better than I could. Therefore I earnestly, and without any reservation, hope that you will proceed with your paper, so that I return your notes. You seem already to have well investigated the subject. I confess on receiving your note that I felt rather flat at my recent work being almost thrown away, but I did not intend to show this feeling. As a proof how little advance I had made on the subject, I may mention that though I had been collecting facts on the colouring, and other sexual differences in mammals, your explanation with respect to the females had not occurred to me. I am surprised at my own stupidity, but I have long recognised how much clearer and deeper your insight into matters is than mine. I do not know how far you have attended to the laws of inheritance, so what follows may be obvious to you.